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Lillian Smith is focus of play at UGA Russell Library

POSTED: February 20, 2014 1:00 a.m.

A one-woman play about Northeast Georgia author Lillian E. Smith will be presented Saturday, Feb. 22, at the University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Library in Athens.

Atlanta actress and playwright Brenda Bynum will perform “Jordan is So Chilly: An Encounter with Lillian Smith,” at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the Russell Building Special Collections Libraries, at 300 S. Hull St. A reception will follow.

Parking is available for the free event in the adjacent Hull Street parking deck.

Drawn largely from unpublished autobiographical writings by Smith, the title of the play is from an African-American spiritual, “Jordan is So Chilly,” which was Smith’s original title for “Strange Fruit,” her best-selling novel about the horrors of lynching. This year marks the 70th anniversary of its publication.

“The title calls up for me the image of the difficult times faced by anyone in crossing over to the ‘promised land,’” Bynum said. “Lillian Smith faced so many trials and tribulations in her life and her work, it seemed quite appropriate to me.”

In addition to unpublished writings, Bynum drew on books, letters and a television interview Smith did in the 1960s.

“It is an intimate conversation with the audience and is intended to be deeply personal and reveal the woman and the artist behind the icon,” Bynum said. “For me, it has been a true labor of love to bring her back to life in this way, and I have been extremely gratified by the responses to her story, particularly from the many people who are hearing her story for the first time.”


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