Meet Phillip Justman: Actor of Young and Old
By Kasey Carty-Campbell
Photos by Tim Goldman
Phillip Justman, a theatre and performance studies major at Kennesaw State University, aspires to be an old man—on stage that is. He has portrayed characters 40 years his senior with convincing success, enjoying the detached sense of humor they often bring to performances. Playing parts in the KSU production of “Moby-Dick,” the KSU Tellers adaptation of “Beowulf” at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland last year, and the upcoming KSU performance of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” Phillip has succeeded in traditional theatre roles as well as individual and group storytelling roles.
“Whether I am doing an individual performance or a group performance, I am exploring the economics of the stage and seeing how far I can expand myself on the stage,” he says.
Hannah Harvey, assistant professor of theatre and performance studies and faculty advisor to the KSU Tellers, has enjoyed watching Phillip’s “expansion” process. “Phillip is a focused student and performer and his intensity shows through all he does,” she says. “He has grown and matured as a storyteller during his three years at Kennesaw and he keeps getting better.”
Phillip pushes the boundaries of traditional theatre, creating powerful roles and exploring movement-based stories. “I enjoy filling large spaces,” he says. This past spring, he adapted his performance as Capt. Ahab from “Moby-Dick” into a story for the KSU StoryFest. Phillip told the story using a stool as a transformational prop—it represented the white whale, the boat and the spear.
In fall 2007, Phillip and another theatre and performance studies major, Andrew Puckett, extended the theatre experience beyond the walls of the department, and started the student organization KISS, otherwise known as “Kennesaw Improv Society…Stupid.” “The group is doing fantastically well, with people from within and outside the department joining,” he says.
This kind of drive and initiative has attracted the attention of the department. Awarded the Joel and Betty Seigel Scholarship for Theatre in addition to the Glenn Hollingsworth, Jr. Memorial Scholarship, Phillip’s hard work and dedication continues to propel him on the road that he hopes to take in professional theatre.
“Knowledge is never wasted on Phillip,” says Harvey. “He takes in everything that he learns in class and incorporates the theories and ideas from our readings, trying them out without fear in his performances.”
It is Phillip’s belief that “theatre is an expansion of good will and a knowledge and explanation of what it means to be human.” As he explores his expanding ideas of performance, Phillip will continue to contribute to KSU and the field of performance and storytelling. And, unlike some of his older characters, he still has many more years to do that.