Section: Arts

Don’t be overdramatic: Life after “Baby Drama” shutout

Don’t be overdramatic: Life after “Baby Drama” shutout

Cora Markowitz, Collegian

By Lauren Katz

“Risk. Fail. Risk again.”

This is the motto of the the National Theater Institute (NTI) at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn., where a number of Kenyon drama majors study abroad. One of those students was Asha McAllister ’15, who, like her fellow students Katie Moss ’15 and Cheyenne Davis ’15, experienced a setback when they embarked on drama careers at Kenyon. All three were closed out of Introduction to the Theater — commonly referred to as “Baby Drama” — in their first year. So, each embraced risks.

Over the years, students have consistently been shut out of Intro to the Theater because the extremely popular class only has twenty spaces per section. The obvious solution seems to be adding more sections of the course, but even that has its complications.   

“It’s a special course, and we teach it in a particular way,” Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell said. “It is team taught — four faculty [members] teach it, and that means that it’s hard [to add more professors]. … If you add more sections, it would take faculty away from classes that upperclass students want to take.”

One of the tricky aspects of the course is that it is a prerequisite for most upper level drama courses — as well as a requirement for the film major introduced in 2011 — and this added pressure has not gone unnoticed by the department.

“The course is the gateway to nearly every other course we offer in the department,” Assistant Professor of Drama Ben Viccellio said. “We introduce an approach and a vocabulary that serve as the foundation of all our curricular efforts.”

When Moss realized she had been shut out, she contacted Viccellio. “He said, ‘You’re on the waitlist … so come into the first class, if someone doesn’t show up, you will get in,’” Moss said. “So I did, and then no one dropped.”

When her plans were delayed, Moss took a risk.

“Because I had that open slot, I took Intro [to] American Studies on a whim, which is how I became an American Studies major, which I love,” Moss, an American Studies and English double major, said. “I think my entire life plan would be different if I hadn’t taken Intro American Studies.”

When students are shut out of Intro to the Theater, the department suggests they make a choice similar to Moss’s. “Waiting until their second year gives them a chance to meet various distribution requirements and explore other areas of study,” Viccellio said. “Who knows? They might discover a new and unexpected passion.”

However, some students feel they simply cannot wait, including McAllister, who embraced the drop/add period.

“I went to Baby Drama and acted as if I was in that class for a week,” McAllister said. “Every day, after each class, I just went to the department, talked to all of the professors … and just stalked them.”

In the end, her hard work paid off. McAllister found an empty spot, and the class paved the way for McAllister to take her drama major to NTI when she studied abroad. NTI forced her outside of her comfort zone in an unexpected way when they asked her to direct a play.

“I was terrified to direct, because I had tried to direct a show at Kenyon, but it fell apart,” McAllister said. “I had to end up canceling it.”

She was ready to give up until a friend pointed her in a different direction.

“One of my friends said, ‘We know you’re a designer, why don’t you go into it as a designer?’” McAllister remembered. “So I did.”

McAllister took a risk. Not only did she conquer her fear of directing, but she returned to Kenyon with a new sense of confidence in her own art.

Davis employed a similar method at Kenyon and did not let the frustration of registration slow her down.

“Second semester, I convinced [former Assistant Professor of Drama Kevin Rich] to let me into one of his upper -level drama classes,” Davis said. “I was really lucky because you are not supposed to take any of the upper-level courses without Baby Drama.”

Finding a way to fill as many requirements as possible as a first year allowed her to discover a new passion as a sophomore.

“[Rich] was actually the one who said, ‘You should try out lighting design some time, because you might have an eye for that,’” Davis said.

For a student who had never tackled design before, Davis learned fast. She currently plans to combine her drama major with her classics minor for her senior exercise as set designer for the Kenyon College Dance and Dramatic Club’s The Bacchae. “That was one of the biggest things while I was writing my thesis proposal, … being able to connect the two,” Davis said. “I was lucky that one of the main stage shows was a classic play.”

Davis found the perfect capstone for her four years at Kenyon although, like McAllister and Moss, she started out her first year with a setback. All three eventually found a way to make their situation work.

“You just have to risk, fail, risk again,” McAllister said.

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