Australian playwright makes impact on K-State performance

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Sam Johnson, senior in theatre, and Kelli Young, sophomore in heatre, portray Axel and Corvette in the Theatre production comedy of "Bustown." Showings will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 5th-7th, 12th-14th and at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 15th in Mark A. Chapman Theatre. (Nicholas Cady | The Collegian)

Lachlan Philpott, playwright of “Bustown,” traveled all the way from Australia to Manhattan to attend rehearsals and watch his script come alive in the U.S. for the first time.

“Bustown” opened Thursday at Mark A. Chapman Theatre in Nichols Hall.

Set in a post-apocalyptic junkyard town called Bustown, the play focuses on young residents who dream of escaping their tiny town in the middle of nowhere and how their decisions affect the whole town in a way that relates to how the world truly runs.

The main characters, Axel and Corvette, are most tempted to wait no longer and just grab a set of keys and run off.

“It’s a very unique process when you get to work with the playwright and get to actually change things within the script as you go along to fit this specific group of people.” -Blake Cordell, junior in applied music

Both actress Kelli Young, sophomore in theater who plays Corvette, and actor Blake Cordell, junior in applied music, used the word family to describe the K-State theater community. They both said it’s the best part of the whole process, as everything gets easier when you deal with family.

“It’s been a huge part of my life ever since I was little,” Young said. “I’ve been doing acting and singing – and whatever that involves being on stage really – for as long as I can remember.”

Young said she was nervous, yet excited, because this was her first audition to act in a play.

“It’s the coolest experience I’ve had in theater so far,” Young said. “We’re so lucky because we get to work with the person who has the most accurate possible perspective on the play: the person who wrote it. Lachlan is a really easy going and a fun person to work with and that just makes for good communication between him and us the actors and helps us understand how he wants certain actions to be portrayed and so forth.”

Cordell has been involved with theater ever since elementary school and has participated in many plays during his time in the theater department at K-State. His most recent roll was in “The Wedding Singer,” and is currently playing one of three “Punkbirds” in “Bustown.”

“The biggest challenge for a play like ‘Bustown’ is that none of us had done something similar to it before,” Cordell said. “It’s a very unique process when you get to work with the playwright and get to actually change things within the script as you go along to fit this specific group of people. Many portions have been re-written and the ending has changed quite a few times already. Which is what the director, Jennifer Velango, has always wanted us to be ready for; she always maintains a malleable mentality and advises everybody to be ready for change because not everything will always go according to plan.”

Cordell also highlighted the challenge of “Americanizing” the play in multiple ways. Cordell said there were a multitude of Australian words and phrases that the cast and Philpott were charged with changing into American dialogue.

The playwright, Philpott, said that out of all the places in the world, he never really thought that he would come to Kansas to see his play on stage.

“I’m truly excited about the whole thing,” Philpott said. “It came across as a surprise at first, but I’m fully appreciating my time here. It’s a positive experience to say the least.”

He also shared his fascination with the fact that everything around Manhattan and the K-State campus is all so very purple.

“It’s different from Australia, I don’t recall ever seeing this many people wearing the same color tops in my life before – I mean just as everyday attire and not necessarily for a special event or something,” Philpott said. “I think what’s cool about it, however, is that you don’t really have to think much about what you’re going to wear when you’re out and about; saves you time and mental capacity.”

Philpott said one of the main arguments of the production was whether young people in a small community should venture out into the “otherness” or if they should choose to stay.

“I really cannot wait to see how the audience reacts to a piece of work like this one,” Philpott said. “I know it’s different … well different is one word for it … so I just want to sit there and observe people as the play goes on. Opening night should be fun.”

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