Play by grad student to premiere on campus

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February 26, 2021
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February 26, 2021

Play by grad student to premiere on campus

Scriptwriter and actor David Veatch, in '70s costume, and director James Zhang produce the play. Photo: Nick Zukowski

Operation: Turkey Lurkey, created by the BJU theatre arts department and written by graduate student David Veatch, promises a comedic, romantic and memorable experience.

Operation: Turkey Lurkey will be available for all BJU students to see at 7:30 p.m. March 4 to March 6 in Performance Hall.

“One of our big projects for the year is to put on our own play,” said Wilbur Mauk, a theatre graduate student. Operation: Turkey Lurkey is the big project of the year for theatre graduate students. “We cast students from BJU, build our own set, handle budgeting and anything else we can accomplish to put on the show,” Mauk said.

Veatch said he came up with the idea for one of his thesis proposals. “I was writing a new play in three to four days every week,” Veatch said. “Operation: Turkey Lurkey was the fourth and final play that I ended up writing in the process,” Veatch said the play, inspired by current American culture, went through eight different drafts before it was finally ready.

Scriptwriter and actor David Veatch, in ’70s costume, and director James Zhang produce the play. Photo: Nick Zukowski

Veatch said another inspiration for the play was his classmates. “With everything that was happening with COVID-19 and the election, it was nice to have somewhere that I could go and find joy,” Veatch said. Veatch also plays the role of Larry in Operation: Turkey Lurkey and is the costume designer for the show.

“I love things that are fun and the opportunity to sit back, laugh, relax and enjoy a play,” Veatch said.

Veatch hopes the key thing the audience takes away is a sense of joy. “I hope the audience has a lot of fun,” Veatch said. “I hope they laugh, and it’s a relief of the tension of the semester from coming out of a rough year.”

“The story is based around Thanksgiving and follows the main character, Ryan, who is not put together,” Mauk said. “His family asks him to host Thanksgiving and, with the help of a friend, he tries to show his family that he is better off than he really is.”

Mauk plays the role of Derek, who is Ryan’s best friend. “He’s very funny, chill and relaxed,” Mauk said, “Ryan is the complete opposite and very nervous and self-conscious.”

Mauk said the main message to take from the play is it is better to be who you are instead of trying to impress other people. “The writing is very strong, thanks to David,” Mauk said. “One aspect I really like is that the play is really funny. I really enjoy playing the part of Derek and cracking jokes on stage.”

Actors Mary Conn, Steven White and Wilbur Mauk rehearse in costume. Photo: Nick Zukowski

Madeline Bell, a first-year theatre graduate student, plays the role of Aunt Karen, a carefree, peace-loving kindergarten teacher.

“It’s been nice to take part in a comedy,” Bell said there are a lot of modern references to be on the lookout for in the play that connect the storyline to comedic elements relatable to students. Bell said the play is a very goodhearted comedy that goes deep but gives students a chance to get away from the business of school.

“One thing I hope that people take away from this is a brand-new look on theatre,” Bell said. “I hope that this play shows people that theatre can be really fun.”

Bell’s advice for someone starting out in theatre is to be confident and avoid overthinking things. “You’re going to run into a lot of different people with different personalities and experience, but you’re all there for the same purpose: to create live art,” Bell said.

“There’s nothing like an audience full of people laughing,” Veatch said. “Come laugh at us. It’s going to be a good one.” Students can reserve their tickets for $8 at bju.universitytickets.com.