For the fifth straight year a member of Perry Central’s drama company, the Commodore Players, has received statewide recognition.
Austin Campbell, a senior who first began acting with the Commodore Players as a grade schooler in 2008, was named to the All-State Cast, the theatre’s equivalent to the Sweet Sixteen’s All-Tournament Team, during the Kentucky Theatre Association’s annual festival earlier this month. And while he said he was expecting one of Perry Central’s actors to be recognized, he wasn’t necessarily expecting to hear his own named called.
“I thought it was going to be somebody else, really,” he said. “When they called my name I was over-excited.”
This year’s KTA festival was held in Morehead, and included 16 teams competing. Only 14 actors were selected to the All-State Cast. Campbell was singled out for his portrayal of Bernard Sapp in the Players’ production of “Urban Legends,” a culled-down version of the company’s fall production of the same title.
Sapp is stranded after an airplane crash in the Bermuda Triangle, and is later rescued as the sole survivor. It is later revealed, after Sapp is admitted into an insane asylum, that he had cannibalized his wife to survive, which eventually led to his insanity.
The part called for a darker turn than Campbell has been used to on the PCC stage, as many of his past characters called for higher-energy performances, like the white rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland.” He said for the KTA festival he attempted to do something a bit different. During the big reveal when the audience learned Sapp had eaten his wife, he added a maniacal laugh at the end, something he didn’t include during the company’s run in October before the hometown audience.
“I wanted to end with something much more dramatic,” he said. “I didn’t know if it would work or not. I didn’t use it until it just happened.”
Campbell’s turn was one of several strong performances from Perry Central’s actors this year at KTA, said Philip Neace, PCC’s drama teacher and director of the school’s theatre company. He said the school is building a reputation among theatre programs across the state.
“We definitely feel that this was a production that was well praised and well judged,” Neace said. “There were things in this whole production that were just outstanding.”
Neace also praised the other teams from Eastern Kentucky, including Corbin High School, which placed third overall. He said theatre in the mountains is growing, and he is hoping to have eight teams compete at this year’s festival for the Eastern Kentucky Dramatic Arts Society.
“There is more than enough talent in the entire region to compete against the rest of the state, even the metro city schools,” Neace said.
As for Campbell, he hopes to continue acting in college. He credited his time with the Commodore Players as giving him an opportunity to not only explore the dramatic arts, but also to learn a craft that he hopes will continue to be a part of his life.
“That’s where I found where I wanted to be,” he said. “I wanted to be on stage, acting.”