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Free sneak preview of the Erk Russell Project

   The Erk Russell Project is halfway completed and organizers are asking the public to view the progress so far. The project, a collaboration between the Department of Communication Arts at Georgia Southern University and the Averitt Center for the Arts, is based largely on oral histories collected from people who were acquaintances of the late coach. The effort will culminate in a stage production telling the story of Russell’s immeasurable impact on Statesboro and the University – set to debut at the start of the 2008 football season.
   Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m. in the Averitt Center, the general public is invited to enjoy a free sneak preview of the oral histories phase. The performance will feature four local actors portraying men and women whose lives were touched by Russell, the architect of Georgia Southern’s nationally renowned football program and a key figure in the growth of the University. An audience feedback session and light refreshments will follow the performance.
    Rebecca Kennerly, an assistant professor of communication arts at Georgia Southern and the co-director of the Erk Russell Project, was asked to facilitate the oral histories portion of the project by Tim Chapman, the executive director of the Averitt Center.  
     “Our mission is to honor Coach Russell’s lasting impact on the Statesboro and Georgia Southern communities by facilitating a collaborative research and performance-based effort between these communities,” said Kennerly. “We also want to provide audience members and project collaborators alike with an excellent, entertaining and inspiring theatre arts experience.”
   Kennerly will also serve as aesthetic director with Scott Garner, the former sports editor of the Statesboro Herald, who will write the play and co-direct it with Kennerly. The script remains a work in progress, but Garner is basing much of it on oral histories derived from a series of ongoing interviews with the people who knew Russell best: family members, friends, fans and former players.
    In July, auditions were held for people who wanted to gather oral histories from those who knew Russell well or were influenced by him. Four of these interviews will be highlighted during the Dec. 2 performance, which will feature:
- Alan Tyson as Bruce Yawn, a Russell confidante and the owner of Snooky’s, the legendary restaurant where the coach held court on a regular basis.
- Tina Douzenis as Jane Page, a Georgia Southern professor who spent many Saturday afternoons in the fall supporting Erk’s Eagles.
- David Murkison as Perk Robbins, a Georgia Southern administrator whose friendship with Russell dated back to the coach’s days as an assistant at the University of Georgia.
- Rachel Godbee as Sandra Prince, an Eagle cheerleader who was an eyewitness to many of Russell’s victories in the late 1980s.
    The performances will be based on a personal interview each actor conducted with the person they are portraying. The entire performance is expected to last between 45 minutes and one hour.

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