Putting together 86th Varieties: Reliving the Legends


Richard Martinez / Iowa State Daily

Winners by Judge’s Choice, greek pairing “A Turn in Time” performed a dramatic skit surrounding the origins of the seemingly dreary and boring fictional Tuner family. With creative transitions through time, the ensemble captivated the audience with anecdotal sequences unfolding the Turner families colorful background. 

Thomas Shreve

For 86 years Varieties has been showcasing the talent of Iowa State students, whether it be actors, singers or jugglers. This year, the Varieties staff aims to celebrate their history with the theme “Reliving the Legends.”

Though Varieties has a long and memorable history, it is still not as well known as the people involved want it to be.

“A lot of people don’t know about it,” said Varieties Assistant Director Alyssa Clausen. Varieties Director Jess Self described it as a “hidden gem.”

Varieties is a place for students to show off their onstage skills with students, or a “student talent showcase,” as Self describes.

“Any student that wants to showcase their act can,” said Self. “For many people it’s their first time ever on stage.”

Students perform in either vignettes or pairings. Vignettes consist of a only a few people performing a smaller act, around 10 minutes long. Pairings consist of large groups of people, around 50, who’s performances are a lot longer. Pairings often do mini-musicals, in which they compose their own original songs or parody existing ones.

There is a big focus on the Greek community, with 48 total Greek chapters performing, mostly in pairs. There are also different on campus groups involved. For example, the Unicycling Club participates every year and different musicians from around campus are brought in to help out with the musicals.

In total there are four shows. Two nights of semi-finals and two nights of finals. The semi-finals begin with seven pairings and seven vignettes. Only four pairings and four vignettes advance to the finals before choosing a winner on finals night.

The winners are determined by a panel of judges consisting of members of the Ames and Des Moines communities. These judges are chosen early on, as they are also the ones who interview contestants to decide whether or not they will participate in Varieties.

“There’s a lot more than just winning,” Self said.

Other than the overall winner, there are a lot of other awards handed out. There’s a lifetime achievement award, usually given to a junior or senior who has performed in multiple Varieties. There are also caption awards, such as best actor/actress and best singer.

Although it is only four nights once a year, Varieties requires an immense amount of work behind the scenes. Self and Clausen received their positions last spring and have been hard at work ever since. They search the community and school for a committee of 16 people. The committee then works on getting the word out by reaching out to different groups of people such as nursing homes and schools.

Varieties semi-finals will be at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10 and 11. Varieties finals will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25. Both events take place in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Tickets for semi-finals will be $6 for students and $10 for the public, while tickets for the finals will be $8 for students and $14 for the public.