By Natalia Asis, Staff Reporter

Richard Russell in “Keely & Du”

Richard Russell in “Keely & Du”
(Photo by Stan Spilecki)

   Richard Russell, a junior theater and psychology major at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), has played a variety of roles for different productions, such as being one of the main characters in the play “Keely & Du” earlier this month.

   Russell likes theater because he feels he temporarily becomes a new person. “I can express a lot of emotions that I wouldn’t normally feel,” said Russell. “When I was in ‘Keely & Du’ I played this extremist Christian who believes in the right of life and that very far removed from what I personally believe.”

   “You have to believe what you are saying, you have to find it from within yourself,” said Russell. “For every role, we do a lot of research. I talked to many of my really religious friends,” said Russell referring to how he got ready for his latest role. “When you get into a role, you feel all the character’s emotions. After a lot of rehearsals, you just want to go and get some Ben & Jerry’s and cry.”

   The director of “Keely & Du” was very pleased with Russell. “He is really a wonderful actor to work with. This was an exceptionally challenging role that he had in Keely & Du,” said Jayne Decker, an instructor of Theater and the director of Emery Community Arts Center. “He obviously loves theater. I really enjoyed the actor-director work we did together. There was intensive work on character work and development and Richard really embraced the whole process.”

   Some people have been able to see Russell’s performance evolution. “He had a much bigger role in Keely & Du; I think it shows versatility,” said Stan Spilecki the resident scenic and lighting Designer/Technical Director at Emery and Alumni Theatre. “I met Richard last year because was in the production of ‘Coyote on a Fence.’ In Coyote, they didn’t have speaking roles. They were almost part of the set,” said Spilecki. “And they were focused in being in character the entire time while the actions were going on the main part of the stage. It was key to the whole show.”

   Russell currently works with Spilecki in Emery and Alumni. “I got to know them well when he joined my work-study crew,” said Spilecki. “He is very focused and he wants to learn the way to do it the right way.”

   Russell began acting many years ago in Disney adaptations. “My parents wanted me to get out of the house when I was a kid,” said Russell. “I started when I was 8 years old. My first time on stage, it was “The Little Mermaid” and I was a little sailor boy and I didn’t have a single line. And then, the next year, we did “Toy Story” and I got to play Buzz Lightyear,” said Russell.

   As a student, Decker had nothing but positive things to say about Russell. “He is very engaged in class discussion,” said Decker. “And by having him in the classroom, you get to know him and his personality a little bit more.”

   Russell is also majoring in Psychology. “I was always interested in Psychology,” said Russell. “There are several programs in graduate school like special arts therapy and you can combine them and use theatre or music as a therapeutic tool. If I don’t get a lot of roles later in life, which is very possible and I accept that possibility, I’d like to be a counselor.”

   However, the class he is enjoying the most this semester is neither related to acting or Psychology. “My favorite class this semester is my piano class,” said Russell “I am really into it. I wanted to learn how to play since I was a little kid.”

   “When I have some free time, I like to play the guitar and the ukulele,” said Russell. “I try to hang out with people, just see my friends. Being a theatre major, most of the work is done outside the classroom. I like to spend it relaxing.”

   As regards to the future, Russell is thinking about different options. “I’ve been contemplating going to Boston or Chicago,” said Russell. “Boston is not so much a big theatre place but it is one of my favorite cities. And Chicago, I wanna go because I’ve been told that’s the place you want to go if you want to act on stage. You have to follow it. Follow the call.”

   “My freshman year, we did a 10 minute scene together,” said Chantal Duchaine, a junior and a close friend of Rusell. “It was fun, we had a good time. And that’s how we met,” said Duchaine. “He is funny, he is genuine, he is honest, he is very caring.”