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Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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April 15, 2024

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Milk Route switches to a virtual format


Senior Molly Followell performs her senior capstone reading at Milk Route. (Rob Nguyen/TKS) 

Senior Molly Followell performs her senior capstone reading at Milk Route. (Rob Nguyen/TKS) 

Students in the creative writing department felt calm in nerves as their senior capstone performance switches to Zoom.

Each year at Milk Route, graduating seniors in the creative writing department have ten minutes in the spotlight while supporters gather in front of them, snacking on cheese and crackers and making room for late arrivals. This year, unlike previous Milk Routes, instead of a crowd, students faced a camera as they read their work in front of people seated in their homes and in front of their computers.

With COVID protocols in place, Milk Route took place in the Lincoln Room of Alumni Hall rather than the traditional location of English professor Monica Berlin’s previously owned art studio referred to as The Space, but has since been sold. Students stayed socially distanced and masked as they waited for their turn to perform for the Zoom call unmasked. Virtually, as students perform, chat messages are flowing with compliments and proud family members congratulating the readers, yet in person, small murmurs of validation spread from the students as they thought about what people were saying over Zoom. 

“I was a little sad that I couldn’t see the audience’s reactions or the chat box since I was performing, however being in a room with just my colleagues and professor kept the nerves down a bit, as I was with people I was familiar with,” said senior Matrice Young

Similar to Young, senior Sarah Lohmann was glad to keep her nerves down with the absence of people in the room. 

“Though it was sad to not be able to do what the other Creative Writing majors have done, I was actually pretty thankful for how it turned out. In addition to the worry that it could have been canceled otherwise, I have pretty severe anxiety, so I was able to feel much less nervous when presenting my work than I would have been if I’d been able to see everyone in the room with me,” said Lohmann. 

Along with helping calm anxieties of performing, the virtual format allowed students to invite people to their Milk Route performances regardless of where they were in the world. Family members and friends who never would have been able to travel for someone’s reading were now able to log in from their homes. 

“I was able to invite a lot of scattered family to the event, and not forcing them to drive the 4+ hours to see me read for ten minutes. I missed not being surrounded by the greater Knox community, but it was nice to have more family be able to attend,” said senior Sebastiano Masi

“Most of my family would not have been able to come if this had been in person, regardless of COVID-19,” said Lohmann.

Masi, along with Lohmann and Young, still felt nervous to perform in the weeks leading up to the event and even when sitting waiting for their turn to read. Yet Young, who performed during the final week of Milk Route, felt intimidated in response to the technical difficulties occurring. 

“I was sad my dad couldn’t attend the zoom, as he was having technical difficulties on his end too. So virtual performances kind of leave out people with technical disadvantages or who may, for example, have unstable internet connections or devices that can’t perform the tasks,” said Young. 

As they complete their capstone, Masi, Lohmann and Young all mention their feelings of accomplishment and disbelief that their Milk Route had come and gone so quickly. The feeling of participating in the standing tradition stayed with the students despite the modifications. 

“It’s kind of unreal to have done my Milk Route. It was something I saw up ahead for so long and for it to be behind me now is strange. I’m really thankful to be a part of something so sacred to Knox’s writing community. It feels like a rite of passage like I’ve blossomed somehow,” said Lohmann. 

Performing in Milk Route also symbolizes an ending as they are soon to complete their education. For Young, this was bittersweet. 

“I’ve been performing for years, but to do Milk Route also showed me where I’ve come from to what my writing has become. Performing at Milk Route really made me realize how much my writing has grown, how much I’ve grown and how much work I’ve put in over the years,” said Young. “It also honestly feels sort of like an ending. I’m both excited and a bit sad that I likely won’t be performing with my peers again, not in this setting, not this way.”

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