Regular Purinton Primer readers are well aware of the usual nature of these posts. In return, dear readers, for tuning in every other week to read my little column, I try to make this blog as funny as I can. But, for one week only, that’s changing. This post is serious, you guys. It’s about to get real.
Get serious after the jump.
The reason for this shift in tone is because, this past weekend, I was in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and I realized that this was my last show ever in the Kenyon Black Box Theater. Now, let’s get one thing straight from the start—I’m not sentimental about the Black Box space itself. For a long time I’ve described my relationship with the Black Box as love/hate, but as my time at Kenyon went on, it seated itself firmly on the hate side.
I’d think of the space more approvingly if it were an actual theatrical space. I often gravitate toward shows that can be produced in smaller environments, and thus love the idea of a black box. Sadly, the Kenyon one is truly awful. There’s the vent that randomly goes on and off, a huge vault in the middle of every set, no way for someone to sit in a sound/light booth and also see the entire stage and the numerous other reasons that the Black Box will hopefully be reconstructed with these annoyances in mind.
Nonetheless, I will always have fond memories of the Black Box because it has been the setting for the growth of student theatre at Kenyon. It’s time for me to tell you a story—one of those “When I was your age” stories that seniors get to tell to first years. That’s how college works.
See, when I came to Kenyon, my first show was a piece produced by a student theatre group. “Oh boy,” thought little first-year me. “I get to be in a real live college production!” Come opening night, though, less than half of the 40 chairs in the theater were filled. My director looked out at the audience and happily proclaimed the turnout “Pretty good!”
I found this devastating. The Kenyon drama department is, rightfully, lauded, but I was amazed that the student productions received hardly any attention. It seemed that if you wanted to be involved in the theatre community, you had to be in the Kenyon College Dance and Dramatic Club (KCDC) shows. Yes, these are great, but the truth is that there are only three mainstage shows a year and oftentimes thesis shows in the Hill cast only a limited number of roles due to the restrictions of the productions. The only other visible student theatre group on campus was Renegade, the first-year group that’s a fantastic idea for a group but that is by nature not open to three quarters of the student body. Surrounded by a group of people who were clearly excited about theatre, I couldn’t help but feel that there were not as many theatrical opportunities as there should be. I was especially surprised at the lack of musical theatre, a beloved genre that seemed like it should have a voice at Kenyon. I became incredibly involved in a group called Flashmob Theater (now known as Brave Potato Productions) to try and fulfill some sort of outlet that I felt was noticeably missing.
It still took a couple of years for anyone to really come to student theatre shows. Even last year, when Brave Potato shows started attracting an audience, people were surprised at the quality of the shows.
It’s incredible how far student theatre has come. The first Brave Potato show of the year garnered over 300 audience members, and the organization has put on seven shows this year—initially, we could produce only two. It is not just that Brave Potato has grown—there have been a larger number of student theatre productions across the board. We now have a student playwriting group and several independent productions have gone up. At this point, there is at least one show every single weekend, and this past weekend, there were three. It’s heartwarming for me to see how much the theatre scene has changed here, and to know that a group I helped to start has been able to play a part in this.
So, I end this post with a call to continue supporting the ever-growing student theatre scene. It’s something I am sentimental about, especially now that I’m graduating. A single tear is rolling down my face. (Ed: Don’t cry, Miles!)
To the many people who I have been in shows with during my time here, I apologize that you had to read this. You have undoubtedly heard me give this speech numerous times, aided by emotions and a slight trace of alcohol. I love you all and thank you for helping make my time here so great.
Jeez … in my last post I promised that this would be a funny post. Whoops. At this rate, my next Purinton Primer is going to be depressing as hell. Maybe I’ll be writing about Chekhov. The post will go on for 20 pages, but will never get to Moscow. Also, there’ll be a thematically important seagull.