Forensic(s) Analysis: Directing and Dramaturgy in “Speech & Debate”
by Daniel Ricken, Theater, 2012
Thesis Advisor: Professor Mary Jo Lodge
Q: When did you start thinking about your thesis?
A: I started thinking about my thesis around the end of my sophomore year. Because I wanted to direct a College Theater production, I needed to begin discussing it with the College Theater faculty then. As I was planning on going abroad during my junior spring semester, I wanted everything set up before I left.
Q: How did you start tackling your thesis project at the very beginning?
A: The first step for me was picking the play that I was to direct. The rest of the thesis would be in relation to that play, so I really could not do anything else until that was completed. I read over one hundred plays during my junior fall semester, and I selected a play a little after Thanksgiving that year. The College Theater faculty then approved the play choice.
Q: Did your advisor explain the structure of a thesis project to you?
A: Yes, my advisor was unbelievably organized and helpful in explaining the structure of the thesis project to me. I think I had a syllabus for it about five months before I had to start doing anything.
Q: Did you have to do a literature review? Had you ever done one before?
A: I did not have to do a literature review for my honors thesis, but I have had to complete ones for several of my classes in the past.
Q: Do you remember receiving correspondence from the library about your honors thesis?
A: Yes. The library sent an email to all of the honors students in April about meeting with a librarian to help with research. As I was still abroad (and would be until a few weeks after the semester ended), I was unable to make any of the designated meeting times. However, the librarians offered to meet with me over the summer about my project.
Q: What did you find most challenging about your thesis project?
A: The most challenging component of my thesis problem was having to deal with several means of the project at the same time. During my direction of the production, I needed to complete the written component of the thesis. In the week following the production, I had to generate, revise, and polish two new chapters and eight appendices, while revising and polishing the other three chapters and four appendices.
Q: What did you find most rewarding about your thesis project?
A: The most rewarding component was being able to utilize research and in depth, complex understanding of theater and the piece that I was directing while directing a production. I am so honored that College Theater trusted me with this project, and I was continually surprised at how much I was able to incorporate my research into my direction. Pushing “Print” the final time was pretty rewarding, too.
Q: What assistance did your advisor/department offer you throughout the course of the year?
A: I met with my advisor regularly about each successive component of my thesis. She provided feedback on each chapter, and attended each production meeting and some of the rehearsals for the production to offer some guidance.
Q: Did you meet with librarians in the course of conducting your research? How many times and at what stages of your research?
A: I met with the librarians a few times while conducting my research. I think we met twice in the fall, probably around November as I was finishing my first two chapters, and once in February when I was revising them and needed a bit more information.
Q: What other kind of support did you rely on throughout the year to accomplish your thesis (IT, parents, friends, etc.)?
A: I relied on everyone in my life this year to help me accomplish the thesis. The support from my family and friends was invaluable and truly motivated me to push through and succeed. Once the production began, having a full cast, crew, and production staff that depended on me and looked to me for guidance provided another giant support system.
Q: Were you able to get access to all of the research materials you wanted for your project?
A: Mostly. My playwright wrote a few other plays that I was unable to attain through any of the library sources, included ILL. But this section was already strong, and I was able to get access to everything else that I needed. The only other thing I could have potentially wanted that I could not get access to was a video of the original Off-Broadway production of the play.
Q: Would you do anything differently if you went through the process again?
A: I think I would spend more time revising the first few chapters earlier on in the production process in order to not have to do as much as I left for myself in the final week. But besides that, my time management and my overall performance was very successful. The process worked, so I do not think that I would really change it.
Q: What advice would you offer other honors thesis students, especially in your department?
A: Use the resources that the college presents to you. There are so many people, librarians, advisors, committee members, other department faculty, that are so willing to help you with this project and believe in your success so much. Yes, this is an individual project, but do not be afraid to ask for assistance on it. That, and make sure you take time to breathe and relax throughout the year. This will get stressful, but make sure that you take some time for yourself to ensure that you remain (relatively) sane and as stress-free as possible.