In pursuit of trivia
A head full of useless information is not likely to secure you a great job or improve your chances for love, but it could win you a gift card at Seasons, or a tee-shirt or trial gym club membership at the Newes from America. Both local restaurants host weekly trivia contests where, while the stakes are not exactly high, the competition for bragging rights gets fierce.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
Trivia Night at the Newes has a core group of regulars that includes a team of women who work at Felix Neck. "They've never missed a week," notes Ray Whitaker, who hosts the event. Amanda Wallas, a frequent player, observes, "It's really popular for work groups. It's a great social activity for a bunch of people."
Mr. Whitaker introduced the game to Martha's Vineyard in the fall of 2007, hosting a weekly trivia night at Outerland. After the club closed for the winter, Mr. Whitaker moved trivia night to the Newes in Edgartown, where he tends bar. Now in its second year, the weekly game has become so successful that teams arrive up to an hour early on Tuesday nights to secure a table. Notes Ms. Wallas, "It's challenging but not impossibly hard. And he always throws in topical questions so it's a good way to stay on top of the news."
In Oak Bluffs, Seasons on Circuit Avenue added a trivia night to their weekly lineup of activities. Paul Donnelly, who hosts a trivia game at the Portuguese-American Club, is running the game at Seasons on Thursdays from 8 to 11:30 pm. The Belfast native, a freelance DJ who operates a videotape conversion business, approaches the game with more emphasis on technology than Mr. Whitaker's version.
Mr. Donnelly notes that the game is wildly popular in his native Ireland. He started hosting a quiz night, as they call it in the U.K., years ago before moving here. "It can get really competitive," he says. "Once the game gets going, you'll see people straining their necks to check the scoreboard."
In addition to being read out, at Seasons the 10 rounds of questions are projected on a 50-inch screen. Mr. Donnelly mixes in a few giveaway questions and a fair number of expert-only stumpers. The Inaugural Night theme included: "Name that First Lady," and "Identify these D.C. landmarks." Here are a few sample questions: Which president's plane was the first to be called Air Force One? (John F. Kennedy.) What is the only U.S. state with a one-syllable name? (Maine.) What is the top money making film starring a black actor? (Beverly Hills Cop.)
Both venues ask questions that cover music, history, and movies, with less expected rounds thrown in. Mr. Donnelly says one of his most popular experiments was to identify extreme close-up pictures of everyday objects. Generally every member of a team contributes something. Says Philip Hunsaker about his girlfriend, Emily Cohen, "She gets all the music clips."
Mike Santoro, Seasons' managing partner, says, "I think it will get certain groups of people together that wouldn't normally come out to a bar. People are looking to be entertained and they want something different." Mr. Santoro is thinking of eventually hosting a six-week tournament with a grand prize.
Jane Loutzenhiser, a regular participant at the Newes, says, "It's a really friendly atmosphere. If you come by yourself another team will welcome you." She adds, "The intimacy of the Newes lends itself to an atmosphere of camaraderie. There's a comfort level." Mr. Whitaker describes it this way: "It's structured but it's informal. It's almost like hanging out in someone's living room."
Trivia night has become something of a vocation for the two hosts. Mr. Whitaker now has a website, 123toknowledge.com, and a Facebook group where he often posts one question for the upcoming week. Both Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Donnelly offer a personalized version of the game to corporate groups or rehearsal dinner parties.
Trivia Night, at the Newes on Tuesdays starting at 7:30 pm, at Seasons on Thursdays from 8-11:30 pm, and soon to resume at the P.A. Club on Wednesday nights.
Regular contributor Gwyn McAllister is the reigning champion (until next time) of trivia at Seasons.