Student Spotlight: Casual Thursday president Connor Lehan ’18
For a leader, it can often be difficult to strike a balance between pushing group members toward growth and making everyone feel motivated and supported. Connor Lehan ’18 has managed to do both as the president of Casual Thursday. An economics major and computer science minor, Lehan has been a member of the student improv group Casual Thursday since his freshman fall, when he fell in love with improv as an outlet for channeling the wacky side of personality.
“Everyone needs an outlet,” Lehan said. “Normally, I’m kind of a low-energy person, but then there’s this part of me that needs to come out and be crazy and wacky and wild.”
Lehan said that in middle school, he was “the goofball” and “the class clown” but became more reserved in high school out of a desire to “keep that wackiness in check.”
“So, I think I found a balance here where I use improv as an outlet for that wackiness,” Lehan said.
Not only has improv provided Lehan with a sense of balance, it has also helped him to overcome the self-consciousness that originally caused him to hide his outgoing side.
“I think that improv usually attracts the kind of people who don’t care what other people think, but over time, as they keep doing it, that becomes even more so,” he said.
Lehan recalled fears he had over giving a bad performance or realizing a joke may have fallen flat.
“I think to just get your ego back up a little bit you’re going to have to convince yourself that you don’t care that [people] didn’t laugh, and it sounds really sad, but if you do that enough it eventually becomes true,” Lehan said. “Now, I’ve gotten to this point where I’m not really performing for the audience, I’m just up there to have fun.”
Outside of Casual Thursday, Lehan enjoys writing comedy sketches and skiing. In addition, he hikes with the Dartmouth Outing Club and served as a First-Year Trip leader for Hiking 3 and Hiking 4. However, Casual Thursday has always been his top priority. Kendall Ernst ’18, who joined Casual Thursday the same year as Lehan and now serves as the group’s business manager, said that she especially admires his dedication.
“I think he’s missed maybe like one or two practices the entire time he’s been in the group since freshmen year,” Ernst said. “I remember last term [Lehan] hiked the Fifty, which is crazy and so incredible, and then he came to practice having zero sleep and his whole body hurt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone that dead, and he still got up on stage. No one else would show up in that situation.”
When no one else wanted to take on the responsibility and time commitment of the president role in the spring of his sophomore year, Lehan stepped up. Although Lehan joked that he was in charge by default, his best friend and fellow Casual Thursday member Zachary Schnell ’18 said that Lehan was the obvious choice for president.
“In improv, we just naturally all found ourselves following his lead even before he was president,” Schnell said. “The force through which he moved the group was so incidental in such an amazing way. It wasn’t something he needed a title to do, people just naturally turned to him, and to me, that is the epitome of what a good leader is.”
Schnell met Lehan in the fall of their freshman year, and they bonded right away over their shared “wacky” sense of humor. Lehan introduced Schnell to everyone in Casual Thursday and encouraged him to audition the next year. Schnell noted that one of the things that makes Lehan such an effective leader is that when he provides constructive feedback to members of the group, he recognizes how vulnerable it feels to put yourself out there in improv. This quality became especially evident when the group went on tour and saw the dynamic of other groups. While Lehan encouraged everyone to take turns leading the warmup and picking the set for the show each night, other leaders simply told their group what to do without asking for any input.
“[Lehan] is effective in a way that has far less to do with control and far more to do with trust, and that made this year’s tour absolutely phenomenal,” Schnell said. “Of course, we had some shows that bombed and shows that were fantastic, but at the end of the day, we tried so much stuff and grew so much because of the way [Lehan] led the group.”
Natalie Dameron ’21 joined Casual Thursday this fall and described herself as Lehan’s “number one fan.” She said that going on tour with the group over winter break was one of the best experiences she’s had so far during her time at Dartmouth.
“He is just the nicest person you’ll ever meet, and he is such a strong leader in a way that is not about him,” Dameron said. “He just wants everyone to feel so included and supported, and I think that is so important especially for improv because you have to feel like you can be wacky and silly with all these people ... He definitely cultivates an atmosphere where everyone can be the craziest version of themselves and still feel supported.”
Dameron is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.