The Senior Exercise comprises three parts: a project, an oral discussion of the project, and a comprehensive written examination. Each senior major, with the advice and consent of the department's faculty, designs a senior project, a major piece of creative or scholarly work. The student will initiate the work and collaborate with others to see it through to completion, all with guidance from one or more faculty members. When the work is finished, the student and department faculty members will discuss the preparation and choices that shaped the project. At the end of the year, every senior major will complete a six-hour written examination. The awarding of "distinction" or, in the case of honors candidates, the degree of honors, is based on the student's performance on all three parts of the exercise.
Many majors in dance, drama, and film design a performance project: one that involves practice and development of skills acquired in courses such as The Actor, The Director, The Designer, The Choreographer, The Play, and Acting and Directing for the Camera. The majority of students pursuing performance projects as part of their Senior Exercise elect to direct or act in a play as part of our studio season. Plays in the studio season are directed by students (drama majors and others), and are produced with scenery and costumes chosen from the theater's existing stock. This limitation is designed to emphasize the acting and directing over the production values. Other performance projects involve dance performance, choreography, or design for faculty-directed plays or concerts. The unifying characteristic of all performance projects is that they are given public performances as part of the department's advertised season.
Not all students design performance projects. For instance, an increasing number of students choose to write a play or screenplay, or to work as an actor, director, or cinematographer of a short film. In these instances, the department arranges an informal staged reading of the play or screenplay, or screening of the film, for the benefit of department faculty, and, when possible, an invited audience. Other students elect to write a thesis or research paper, and still other students devise one-of-a-kind projects, such as Aaron Czechowski's guide to stage managing theater productions at Kenyon College, which remains, true to its title, "The Last Word."