October 08, 2008 Edition

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Lawrence County residents Rebekah Shackelford (from left), Hannah Shackelford, Rachel Shackelford, Meshayla Payne and Abigail Shackelford are members of the cast of "Little Women," which will be performed this weekend at The Forum in Jonesboro.

LawCo. residents to be
featured in 'Little Women'

Five Lawrence County residents will take the stage when Louisa May Alcott's timeless classic "Little Women" is presented by the Foundation of Arts in Jonesboro.

Cast in this production are Rachel, 18; Rebekah, 17; Hannah, 15; and Abigail Shackelford, 13, of Walnut Ridge. The girls auditioned in August and have been rehearsing for the last six weeks, along with Meshayla Payne of Hoxie. "This is such a wonderful story," Rebekah said. "It is an all-American classic of faith in God and family bonds that can't be broken."

Rachel and Hannah play the parts of Jo and Amy March, while Rebekah and Abigail play sisters Belle and Annie Moffat.

"Jo March has been my best friend since childhood. I am a lot like her in many ways," Rachel relates. "She has always been one of my favorite characters. It is such an honor to have this opportunity to portray her on stage."

The story of four sisters in the midst of the Civil War and their personal battles against poverty, educational prejudice, selfishness, quick tempers and illness makes this a very personal story for many people today.

"I think everyone can find a little of themselves in each of the March sisters," Abigail said. "Though they have burdens to bear, they carry on day-by-day, not relying on themselves or peer dependency, but rather relying on God's strength and each other as a family. You have friends for a little while, but your family you have a lifetime."

Family is very imperative to the Shackelfords. They are the children of Dr. Bobby and Karen Shackelford and sisters to Luke, 10; Silas, 4; and Titus Jon, 2.

"My family is very important to me," said Luke, who is working backstage during the production. "It is such a blessing to be able to work with my best friends, my sisters, in this play."

All the Shackelford children are home educated, like the March sisters.

"Home schooling is one of the greatest blessings in my life," Rebekah said. "It allows me to have a wonderful Christian education, be with my family and participate in activities like this production."

Rachel who recently graduated after being home schooled throughout her education said, "Meg and Jo March were always encouragements for me. They, too, were taught by their parents and stayed at home to develop their gifts and home skills until they married and became wives and mothers who had a wonderful impact from their home, which is exactly what I desire."

Payne, who recently moved back to Hoxie from Eureka Springs where she was a member of the cast of the Passion Play, portrays Hannah, the Marches' housekeeper.

"We have loved working with Meshayla," Hannah said. "She is great as Hannah. I knew she had the part from the first time she read in the audition."

This will be the first play that Rebekah has participated in, while it is the second for Hannah, Abby and Luke. Rachel has been in several plays including four at the Foundation of Arts.

"Little Women" is directed by Cindy Cravens of Jonesboro and includes a cast of 14.

"We have such a wonderful cast," Hannah said. "We've become great friends and have had a lot of fun working together on this play. It is sad to think it's almost over."

Rebekah has enjoyed this experience, but admits she looks forward to when she can return to her swimming, which was interrupted by the play's demanding schedule.

All the Shackelfords hope to continue to audition and contribute in future productions at the Foundation of Arts.

"I really enjoy participating in drama," Rachel said. "There is nothing compared to bringing a story alive and becoming your character. You have the chance to do things and go places you would never get to. When you are on stage you have the opportunity to influence your audience's imagination for just a little while and take them with you into your character's world."

Show times for "Little Women" are 7 p.m. Saturday and Monday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 and $12 for adults, $9 and $11 for senior citizens, $7 and $9 for teenagers and students, and $6 for children. Tickets are available by calling 935-2726 or online at www.jonesborofoa.com.

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