• December 19, 2014

Theater director performs one-woman play based on hymn-writer’s life

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Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 4:30 am

COPPERAS COVE — Theater director Shellie O’Neal performed her one-woman play “This Is My Story, This Is My Song: An Evening With Fanny Crosby” for an audience of about 50 people Sunday at Grace Methodist Church.

O’Neal wrote the play to honor Fanny Crosby, a blind woman who wrote more than 8,000 hymns during her lifetime. Among them are “Blessed Assurance,” “Jesus is Tenderly Calling” and “I Am Thine, O Lord.”

O’Neal’s one-hour performance featured stories about Crosby and 11 of her hymns.

“This play is about faith, and how Fanny never doubted that God would look out for her,” O’Neal said. “When we have an overall trust in God, then all things are possible.”

Crosby lived to be 95, and it was her unwavering spirit that inspired O’Neal to tell her story.

“Fanny never quit,” she said. “God spoke to her and she listened. Her journey as a Christian and a woman was amazing. She overcame so much to accomplish so much.”

Dressed in a Victorian blouse and skirt, O’Neal wore a wig, granny-style glasses and shoes. She kept her eyes closed during the show for authenticity. Sunday’s performance was her 44th.

O’Neal is the theater director at Navarro College in Corsicana and previously taught at the University of Texas-Tyler.

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater from UT-Tyler and her doctorate in theater from Louisiana State University. Two of the 21 plays she’s written won state play-writing competitions.

Stephen Schmidt, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, said plans to bring O’Neal’s show to the church started in September.

“We’re excited to see Fanny Crosby unfold before us tonight,” he said.

Marion Palumbo thought O’Neal’s performance was extraordinary. “It was wonderful and so heart-felt,” she said.

Rhonda Robertson, a drama instructional aide at Iduma Elementary School in Killeen, thought O’Neal’s performance was extraordinary.

“Amazing doesn’t begin to describe it, because Dr. O’Neal had so much depth to her performance,” she said.

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