East Sider

Trivial Pursuits

Globe-trotting educator Jonathan Migliori reinvents Quiz Night

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What do you do for fun when you’re an archaeology, classics, and medieval cultures aficionado who teaches for a day job and spends summers giving lectures to cruise ship tourists? You start your own trivia night, naturally.

Jonathan Migliori grew up on the East Side and attended Martin Luther King, Nathanael Greene, Classical, and then Brown University. Following a year in the UK, he returned to Providence to write a master’s thesis in archaeology, but then “realized that academia was a giant waste of time.” While interning in the RISD Museum’s Ancient Art and Education departments, he recalled competing in trivia nights throughout Providence during senior year, and contemplated starting his own.

“In true Rhode Island fashion,” he says, “my cousin told me that her husband’s friend’s family were co-owners of a bar [that was] looking to start a trivia night”: Governor Street’s Round the Corner. “She put me in touch with the friend, and that was that.”

Jonathan describes his six-year-old trivia night as “artisanal.” He writes every question himself and invents novel ways of formatting rounds: picture and song identification, matching, and varieties of cryptic or wordplay sections typically appear. Questions “revolve around categorizations, definitions, words, names, and relationships,” capitalizing on Jonathan’s far-reaching, idiosyncratic penchant for subjects like etymology.

This past summer, as a Viking Ocean Cruises resident historian, Jonathan enjoyed “going to the room where Rasputin was murdered in Saint Petersburg, going full-geek on a Beatles tour of Liverpool, and kayaking through a rainstorm outside Helsinki with a guide from Cape Cod.” He recently started teaching Latin through the Wheeler School’s Aerie program after leaving La Salle Academy, where he taught sixth graders. He is the newly elected Vice President of the Brown Club of Rhode Island and is co-leading a Providence Athenaeum book group themed around hell and Satan called “Infernal Journeys.”

If you’re looking for a diversion from typical trivia fare, the Wednesday night vibe at Round the Corner is fun and welcoming. Trivia starts at 8pm and offers prizes like free drinks and bar gift certificates.

“I want people to feel like they’ve solved a puzzle when they get something right and be intrigued by learning an interesting fact when they get something wrong,” Jonathan says. Many of his regulars regularly lose, but they keep returning. “I’m very lucky that the bar lets me do whatever I want.”