This past Saturday, Hope hosted its 88th annual Nykerk competition. Freshman and sophomore (a.k.a. even and odd year) girls competed in song, play, and oration, to take home the coveted Nykerk Cup. Those with keen eyes may have spotted me in the even year play as the totally tubular Jennifer Nicole-Heather Johnson, a student trapped in the Kruizenga Museum since 1986. But how did I end up there? Well, it started with…

The Rally

About a month before Nykerk, the even and odd year coaches, along with the Nykerk board, host a rally to get people pumped for the upcoming competition. Each area gets to advertise themselves with a short, action-packed presentation. In total, the rally lasts about an hour. But the night isn’t finished, because after that is…

The Auditions

Both play and oration require an audition. I can’t speak for oration, but the play audition was an absolute blast. We played improv games, read some lines, and generally had a great time. The next day, it was time for callbacks. This time around, they asked us to prepare a “two minute something” beforehand. It could be a song, monologue, dance, anything! I deliberated for a while about what to do, and eventually settled on a monologue from “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”. After we performed what we prepared, it was back to more line readings. But once the callback was over, it was time for…

The Results

After a few days, each girl casted in the play got an email notifying them of the decision. The email also contained details of our first meeting, along with a line that I heard a lot throughout Nykerk…

This is a Secret!

Since its conception in 1935, Nykerk has developed a ton of rituals and traditions, all of which are only known to the Nykerk participants. One of the most important secrets was the play itself. Not even our morale boys could know what our play was about for most of rehearsals. Not telling anyone may sound hard, but having so many Nykerk secrets strengthened the bond between the play girls as we continued with…

The even year cast acts out a scene from The Pull, a long-standing Hope tradition.
One of the many even year traditions is a scene referencing the Pull. Characters briefly portray pullers, moralers, callers, and even the rope.

The Rehearsals

Rehearsals were Monday-Friday nights and Saturday mornings. That may sound like a lot, but they were at times that usually didn’t conflict with schedules. When there were conflicts, the coaches were more than accommodating. While we did run the play at every rehearsal, that wasn’t the only thing we did. There are a lot more (secret) things that happened at rehearsals, which helped us to get to know each other and our characters. Once the three weeks of rehearsal were up, it was finally time for…

Group photo of the even year play cast.
Group picture after our very last rehearsal.

The Performance

Excitement was in the air when Saturday rolled around. In the morning we had one last run-through of the show just to make sure all our set changes and sound cues were going well. Then, around 5 p.m., it was time for us to get on our costumes and makeup. While we had about two hours to wait, it didn’t feel very long. We had a fun time in the dressing room singing along to Veggie Tales songs and taking pictures to commemorate our last time performing. Before we knew it, show time came around. Our play was first up, so we didn’t have much time to get nervous. The lights came on and we performed. Although we didn’t win, we still celebrated our hard work and the community we built after the event. Nykerk may be a competition, but I think the real Nykerk was finding the friends we made along the way.

The even year play cast in costume before the performance.
Less than an hour until showtime!

Want To Get Involved Next Year?

It’s super easy to get involved in Nykerk. Just go to the rally! Even if you can’t make it, you’ll still be able to audition for the play by reaching out to the coaches. But if play isn’t for you, no problem! There’s also song, which requires no audition, and oration, which rehearses according to your schedule instead of a set one. And it’s not just girls that can get involved, too. Song and play always need moralers. So next year, be sure to check it out. I’ll see you there!

A group of even year play girls.
A very fashionable group picture at the Nykerk wrap-up event

Published by Mackenzie Niswonger

Class of 2026 Hometown: Gladstone, MI Majors: Computer Science and Philosophy

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