Becoming a piece of human sculpture might not be your idea of a good time, but it is for Sam Bandstra. The improv exercise “Museum of Modern Art” is only one of many hysterical games in the repertoire of Improvisational Theatre, in which Sam is the sole senior. He extends his off-the-cuff humor to his tours of the Christopher Wren Building, one of his job requirements as a proctor and member of the Spotswood Society. This week, this history major and funny man tells us about the Wren Chapel cross controversy, the Beer and Conversation Club and the story of Saint Norbert and the deadly spider.
p. **What’s your thesis?**
p. I’m translating a 12th-century Latin saint’s life. I’m analyzing it and how it embodies or doesn’t embody the ideas of 12th-century theology. Last semester, I was working on a paper and talking with Professor [Alison] Beach of the religious studies department. I told her I was interested in monasticism, so she told me she had this great book that was in Latin that nobody had ever used before. It was about this guy called Saint Norbert. Yeah, Saint Norbert, great name. I ended up using the book for part of a paper, and I was like, “Actually, I’d really like to do more research on it.”
p. Saint Norbert becomes this wandering preacher who creates this order of monks. He had a cool story. He was preparing to give Mass and he was filling the cup. This was right around the time when the idea that the wine actually turns into Christ’s blood was becoming popular. Right after he finishes transubstantiating it, this poisonous spider supposedly comes down from the ceiling of the cathedral, 100 feet up, and lands in the wine. The priest has to take the first drink, and he couldn’t just throw out the wine because he believed that it was Christ’s blood. So he drinks it and drinks the spider. He stands up there like, “I’m going to die. This is it.” All of a sudden his nose twitches and he sneezes and sneezes out the spider. So he survives and all is good.
p. **As a member of the Spotswood Society, you give tours of the Wren Building. How do you feel about the Wren Chapel cross controversy?**
p. I think people got a little worked up over it. Technically, it’s historically inaccurate for it to have been there. It was donated to the school in the 1930s from Bruton Parish. But I’m not crazy about the precedent it sets of removing a cross from a chapel. If it’s going to be acceptable anywhere, it’s got to be in a chapel. Part of the school’s history was training Anglican ministers. You have to have some respect for that. It’s unfortunate that a symbol of Christianity offends people, because it’s not meant to. I know I personally wouldn’t be offended if I went to what used to be a mosque and there was a crescent moon or what used to be a synagogue and there was a Star of David. I don’t see why people need to be offended by that. I see both sides and I understand both sides, but I just want to stop having my name and face in the paper, because I got yelled at a tailgate by a 50-year-old man. I’m waiting to get hate mail.
p. **So when you’re not doing all of this history-related stuff, you’re running Improvisational Theatre. How long have you been performing improv?**
p. I used to do a lot of plays in elementary, middle and high school. I think I did improv once on some church retreat some time in high school. I came here and I saw improv and I thought, “Oh, that’s funny.” My friend was like, “Actually, you’d be really good at that,” so I tried out and made call-backs but didn’t get in. One of the kids who was in IT and a junior at the time talked to me afterward and told me he didn’t make it the first time and to try next year. So I tried out the next year and made it, and now I run the whole shebang.
p. **What’s your favorite IT game?**
p. I really like our long-form stuff. If you give us a word of inspiration, we’ll do a 40-minute thing where characters come back and forth. My favorite game that we play is probably “Messages.” You leave, the audience writes messages, you come back and put them in your back pocket. You do your scene, and you’ll be like “As my pappy used to say …” and you pull out something. You’ll be doing a scene about, I don’t know, climbing a mountain and the message will say something about pudding. Then you have to incorporate that into the scene and make it work.
p. **I heard that you’re in a club called Beer and Conversation.**
p. It was a thing started by some people who graduated last year. It’s a bunch of guys who get together and have some beer. The joke is that whoever is hosting it says, “I’ll bring the beer, you bring the conversation.” It’s just hanging out; usually crazy stuff happens. Last year my friend Dan and I were walking over to the sailing house and he stopped to use a Port-a-Potty near Barrett. I pushed it over with him in it. Then somebody dropped their cell phone in the toilet this year. The B&C alumni will come back and check up on us, which is really obnoxious. We had a B&C reunion at Homecoming. The founders said that in 20 years they hope to come back and find the guys who are still doing it.