On the eve of my college graduation, I find myself reminiscing all the while over these past four years. The arcane jokes with cherished friends, the breakthrough moments in transformative classes, the clear nights that buzzed with the stunning urgency of our youth–– I am moved nearly to tears by the remembrance of these most perfect memories.
Pete Davidson’s Rosse Hall stand-up set is not one of those memories.
For anyone. It was a night I think a lot of people wish had never happened, Pete Davidson most of all, and we will be haunted by what happened in that auditorium for the rest of our lives. Only I have been carrying an additional burden from that night in April, 2018, and now that’s been long enough that I don’t think I could really get in trouble anymore, I am ready to lay my burden down.
I almost missed Pete Davidson’s stand-up set. I almost derailed the entire thing. Not five minutes before showtime, I was on the roof of Rosse Hall. And I had no clue how to get down.
When the OSE announced that they’d booked actual SNL castmember Pete Davidson for a stand-up special, the student body was…. Not that impressed. I know it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t all know against our will who Pete Davidson was dating, but in early 2018, he was just the weird young guy on SNL. Plus most of the school had been there for the Earl Sweatshirt debacle and had low faith in any actually famous entertainers showing up to Kenyon.
But we were still excited! Excited enough that when the OSE made a huge deal about how exclusive and fast-going tickets were, people thought “huh I should try to get tickets to that.” There were lines. Rumors they’d sold out. I heard these rumors, but I hate lines and thought, whatever, I’ll just show up.
Personally, I was more concerned with an event right before Pete’s show, the Tommy Awards, a.k.a. Drama Prom, the Dance/Drama/Film department’s fake awards show. It was my first one and there were gonna be so many seniors there! What was I gonna wear? Would it be tacky to bring a flask? I was actually invited, right? Like my name was on the list? I had no mental space left for some tentative Pete Davidson thing.
It wasn’t until after The Tommies, when we all stumbled towards Rosse (my flask proved unnecessary; there had been a lot of Andre), that I realized everyone else had made sure to get an actual, physical ticket. My friends seemed to think I was in trouble, but I stayed cool. What was Sam Filkins gonna do, turn me away?
Then we got to Rosse and saw Sam Filkins turning people away.
You know fight or flight responses? I’ve always had a tendency to take flight, and fly face-first into a related but more convoluted fight.
So my friends got in line with their tickets, and I ran around to the backside of Storer and snuck through an open window into one of the practice rooms.
Why? I don’t know. I panicked. I wanted to get into Rosse without going through the front doors and the back of Storer seemed like a solid first step. I was a bit tipsy, too.
Once I got into Storer, I felt pretty good. No one was around (except some poor soul practicing clarinet in a practice room), and I knew how to get into Rosse from there. I took the elevator up to stage level, and when the doors opened, I… peaked into the hallway and saw Pete Davidson posing for a picture with two students from Social Board.
I pressed the close-doors button a thousand times like that was gonna make them close any faster and went back down to Storer. I saw the clarinet fellow again, and a silent understanding passed between us that if someone were to ask if we saw anything unusual that night, we would both say no.
I wasn’t ready to give up. There had to be a way to get into Rosse without being seen. The elevator seemed like too big of a risk, so I took the staircase, checked for hallway photo-ops, and when the coast was clear I dashed into the closet/room behind Brandi where the grand piano is kept. I assumed, correctly, that I wouldn’t run into Pete tweedling out Heart & Soul in the dark. (Music faculty if you’re reading this I swear to god I didn’t even BREATHE on that piano.)
At this point I was going on pure, organic instinct. I moved on from the piano (which again I didn’t touch!) into that rectangular area/hallway/liminal space?, then into the green room. Instinct, baby. Instinct.
There were SO MANY SNACKS IN THERE!
Pete got a whole table full of junk food options, and about fifty mini plastic water bottles. And I was thirsty, so yeah, I took one. Sue me.
I’d just shoved the bottle in my purse when I heard a toilet flush and noticed someone was in the green room bathroom. I thought, oh fuck, it’s Pete’s, he’s gonna think I snuck back here to meet him and that would be so embarrassing for him, so I booked it once again, going through to the backstage area aaaand onto the Rosse stage.
Yes I was fully on the stage at one point.
I was behind a curtain. No one saw me. I immediately knew I’d made a mistake. I slipped backstage again.
I glanced through the window of the door into the green room and could see the bathroom was dark and no one seemed to be in the room. So I entered, and jumped out of my skin when I saw the opening comedian just hanging out, checking his phone, in a chair at the opposite edge of the room. I didn’t know he was the opener yet, but he was so clearly not from Kenyon (looked cool) that I assumed he was with Pete. He looked confused to see me, which, fair enough. I put on my most Student Council-y voice and said, “Just passing on the message that there’s been a slight delay, but we’re working on it,” and dipped.
Backstage yet again. I was ready to cut my losses, try Sam Filkins at the front doors. But before I could dash across the hallway/liminal space into the piano closet, the corridor rang out with the unmistakable Staten Island vocal fry of one Pete Davidson.
Shit. I couldn’t go forward into Storer. I couldn’t go back onto the stage. I couldn’t go sideways into the greenroom. There was only one direction left to try:
Straight above my head, cracked open like a gift from God, was an attic hatch and half-ladder. I made it up just as Pete & Co got to the room.
I took a moment up there to catch my breath, drink the bottle of water. The room was dark and dusty, but less haunted than you’d think. It was full of tech stuff and had two levels, and on the second was a full-length ladder to the ceiling. Once I saw that, I couldn’t not climb it.
The ladder led to another hatch, and this one opened to the clear night sky. I got out on the roof and took in the view. I won’t lie–– it was stunning. It wasn’t too dangerous; the hatch opened onto a flat landing. I did scamper up to the sloped roof of Rosse to get a better view but I stayed low and kept three points of contact at all times.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself and the way my night turned out. I thought the show must have started by that point, but I didn’t really mind, I was on a roof! I gave myself a few minutes’ peace, then set out for the journey down.
Unfortunately, I’d neglected to ensure the hatch stayed open. Silly me!
Being on a roof is a lot less pleasant when you don’t know how to get off the roof. I was just a bit panicked. Not screaming, but thinking about it. I could tell the hatch wasn’t locked, but I couldn’t pry it open with my hands (I have fat fingers). I spent a few minutes going through all the bad ways this could end. Maybe I could climb down the side of the building without breaking all of my bones? And that would at least be better than getting rescued by the fire department? I wasn’t sure if it would be better to wait until the show ended to call for help, but then everyone might see me and I’d be the girl who got stuck on the roof of Rosse, or to call while everyone was in the show, distracted, but then they might be evacuated and see me anyways and I’d be the girl who got stuck on the roof of Rosse and ruined the Pete Davidson show.
I tried to pry the hatch open with my K-Card, nearly broke it. I tried my room key, couldn’t get it. I tried my P.O. box key, which was thinner, and I was able to lift up one side of the door just enough that I could fit my room key under the other side and lift the keys together enough that I finally got my fat fingers under there and threw the hatch open so fast I nearly fell backwards off the roof.
I descended the ladder, weak-kneed, hands shaking. I wanted out of there. OUT. I nearly cried when I looked down into the backstage room and saw the tops of people’s heads, trapping me up there until the coast was clear.
But it wasn’t long before the heads passed into the green room. I didn’t wait another second, I jumped down, ran out from backstage, ran through the hallway/liminal space, through the piano closet, through Brandi, down the stairs, through the lower level of Storer and out the side door.
It was quiet out by then. The line into Rosse was gone, no one was around. I’d failed to get into show, but at least I was back on solid earth.
I started texting my friends that I’d find them at the Peirce “after-party.” Then I saw Sam Filkins was still stationed by the front doors. And something made me walk up the steps.
“Any chance I can still go in?” I asked him.
“This is the last ticket,” he said and handed me a paper ticket, which I then handed back to him because that’s how tickets work. I took my seat as the lights dimmed.
If only I’d known how bad the show would be. I would have stayed on the roof.