“No, mine are harder!”
We like to stay pretty competitive here at The Thrill, and a Blog Off is one way we can definitively prove that one of us is objectively a better blogger (dare we say, a better person). So we leave it to you, the reader, to decide in a blind taste test who is really better as we square off on various topics. This time around, we have Brooke Cheney ’17 and Natasha Preston ’17, two Seniors who are so Stressed with Comps that they wrote this post during their half an hour study break that they allow themselves once per day. Hey, it’s all about Balance, right?!?!? They engage in the most contentious feud Kenyon has known: Drama Comps vs. English Comps (Honors) (b*tch). You decide who has it harder.
Kenyon College’s prestigious English department, which has produced the Finest Writers and Thinkers of an Older Generation, like E.L. Doctorow and P.F. Kluge, demands all Senior majors to complete a rigorous examination. Each year’s reading list insists that students can expect that “since this reading list is short” the test will probe into the texts’ most intimate details and demand each student to employ of a wide range of critical lenses. For a student to receive Honors in English, they must Do More. They take a similar examination with a reading list that is twice as long, and they write an Honors Thesis, which is also Really Long.
This test can only be taken once the Honors Candidate produces an Honors Thesis. The Thesis can be about any Literary Matter that so inspires the Eager Student turned Honors Candidate. The only qualm is that it must be 60-80 pages, though most are much longer. This year’s longest one (I think) is 138 pages. These Theses are Bound and placed in a year-marked Bin and placed in Lentz House for all Professors and fellow Eager Students to browse through, but almost definitely not Read in Complete, as that would demand almost certainly Too Much Time. Indeed, the Honors Theses are sent to Specialized Outside Examiners who read These Theses and measure them against their own Expansive Knowledge of the topic at hand.
The Specialized Outside Examiners make their way to Kenyon College and its Historic and Prestigious English Department and its very Eager Honors Candidates. The Eager Honors Candidate, who at this point is perhaps more Exhausted than Eager, must Orally Defend their Very Special Project (Honors Thesis) to the Very Specialized Outside Examiner, who is perhaps also Exhausted by the same Special Project and his or her travel to Gambier.
The Real Kicker is that this Very Special Day, in which the Honors Candidate takes the Second Portion of the Written Exam and Defends His or Her Very Special Project, falls on the Best Day of the Year–The Saturday of Send-Off. I know. Don’t Cry for Me, though, because I Got Myself Here, and I Will Get Myself Out.
Ever want to test your own mortality? Try saying drama comps aren’t that hard to a senior one week before her comps. Don’t get me wrong- I know other comps are hard. But let me tell you about drama comps. Most majors have one project or test to complete. But Drama? Drama has three separate parts.
Let’s go to part one: the thesis. I chose to act in Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason, so that meant that from November until the performance in January I was rehearsing everyday for three hours. This part isn’t too terrible, I chose a play I loved and worked with a partner as a director who is my best friend. But this process is time consuming. Not only did I have the usual work that goes into a show (ie learning lines, delving into my character’s inner life and analysis, going through 8+ hours of tech before the show), but I also had to deal with the stress and expectation that the term “thesis” puts on a performance. My partner and I also had one hour meetings each week with our advisor to discuss the project, so in total one ordinary week I would be spending 16 hours on the project in addition to work outside meetings and rehearsal. Also, we get a grade on this process that gets in our final transcript. This part was my favorite though, because I basically was just doing what I loved and spending time with people just as passionate about the project as I was.
Part 2. After the performance, drama majors must go into an oral defense of the thesis. In this one hour meeting, we sit in a room with all the drama faculty and defend choices made. This process can be difficult because performance is very personal, and then looking at it objectively can be difficult. But fortunately we passed, and it was on to stage
Part 3 is the comprehensive exam. If you have seen me on campus the past two weeks, this exam is why I look like I am an extra on the set of The Night of the Living Dead. The first part of the exam is two hours long on April 14, and we answer 20 out of 25 questions ranging from readings and plays from Introduction to Theater (that we took our first-year), all mainstage and thesis plays (which this year counts to 11 plays), theater theories from History of Western Theatre, and any fact or theme from the entire history and literature of western theatre. So basically, everything that has been taught in any drama class at Kenyon. Then the next day on April 15 we take a four hour exam consisting of two essays connecting the season plays to theater theories.
Once this is all done, we have studied theater so much that the lines between performance and reality blur and we become characters from a Euripides play and feast on Kenyon’s campus as catharsis to prepare for the cutthroat environment that is non-equity auditions awaiting us in post-grad. We pray to the gods of Kenyon Drama alumni (ie goddess Allison Janney) and hope we pass. If we don’t? Retake is on Sendoff. But it’s a good thing we love this field so much, and at the end of the day it’s pretty awesome that we get to spend college creating and studying art. Recognition and Reversal: It’s tough, but we’re going to be okay. End of Show.