Rivinoja films her hair and improves improv

by Mark Bubriski | 10/22/98 5:00am

Erica Rivinoja '99 organized and judged a Battle of the Deans between Dean of First-Year Students Peter Goldsmith and Assistant Dean of First-Year Students Stephanie Hull at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge this fall.

The winner? Rivinoja.

"Of course," she said. "I was the judge."

Rivinoja, who hails from Hobbs, N.M. (suspiciously near the infamous Roswell UFO landing site), held the Coolest Dean Contest while serving on the Lodge Crew for Dartmouth Outing Club freshman trips.

Rivinoja worked on the Hanover Crew in 1997 and is also the self-appointed president of the Dog Day Players. This past weekend, she co-hosted the Fall Fling a cappella concert. But she does more than make people laugh.

"I really like documentary filmmaking, and I thought for a while that that was what I wanted to do," Rivinoja said. "So I developed my own major which is anthropology modified with film."

For her senior thesis, she said, she hopes to film an ethnographic documentary exploring Colombia and the effect of American attitudes and stereotypes on its culture.

Rivinoja said she is organizing an anthropological film series, which starts this week, as part of her independent study. The series will be held Wednesdays in Carpenter Hall, she said.

Though anthropology and documentary filmmaking are serious subjects, she still found a way to bring her humor into her work her Sophomore Summer.

"Our documentary film professor told us to do a film on some controversial issue," she said. "So I did my hair because it's been through many changes and at the time there was controversy over whether I should dye it or cut it. It was a 10-minute video."

Her filmmaking has explored other topics and won national recognition, Rivinoja said.

"I did a big one on this woman who was involved in the Manhattan Project. It was pretty exciting," she said.

Her sophomore year, the Institute for Public Media Arts chose her to participate in a nationwide documentary on diversity, she said. She submitted a video diary and was chosen as one of eight out of 250 people.

"And so I filmed my life for about three months and they're going to edit it and show it as part of documentary on college diversity on PBS," Rivinoja said. "It was good but it was kind of difficult because I had to record all of the issues in my life."

The film is currently in post-production and will be shown on PBS later this year, she said.

Her plans for the future are still unclear but film and comedy will definitely be included in her life, she said.

She said her parents do not want her to pursue a career in comedy, she said.

"My dad wants me to be an accountant. Doesn't that suck?" she said.

She said she plans to move to either New York or Los Angeles next year and to look for work writing for a comedy television program. Improv comedy will always be in her life, she said.

"I kind of like the fun stuff that just happens during improv," she said.

Her comedy takes her all over campus -- most noticeably when she attends performances of the male a cappella group the Aires.

"I love the Aires," she said with a straight face. "I got banned from Aires concerts because I get so excited and faint."

She said she remains loyal to the Dog Day Players despite her affinity for the Aires.

"If the Dog Day players were to fight all the a cappella groups on campus, the a cappella groups might win because of sheer numbers. But in a battle of wits, we'd kick their asses," Rivinoja said. "Dog Day is my life," she said.

Rivinoja said she is the president because nobody else wanted the job. The group rehearses for four hours a week, she said, adding that they have improved over the years and also become less offensive.

While the Dog Day Players have had several shows that included a skit at the beginning, she said, their shows usually consist entirely of improv, and call for audience participation.

"Sometimes it's just not funny," she said. "But most of the time it's really funny."

The Dog Day Players have a show this Friday at 9:30 in the Fayerweather basement lounge.

"My mom is going to be there," Rivinoja said. "She's not going to be in it," she added. "She's funny, though."

Several years ago, Chris Miller '97, a member of the group, fell and dislocated his jaw during a Dog Day Players performance. At the time, he was impersonating local skateboarders who had complained about cartoons he drew which mocked their "lifestyle." An ambulance had to be summoned for him.

"Now that's funny," she said.