Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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February 11, 2014

O’Neal brings Crosby to life through play

Corsicana — Dr. Shellie O’Neal, Director of Theatre at Navarro College, will perform a one-woman show at 7 p.m. Thursday at Navarro College’s Dawson Auditorium. Admission is free.

The play celebrates the life of renowned blind hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby, who wrote such favorites as “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” and “He Hideth My Soul.” Crosby earned international fame as a hymn writer and wrote between 8,000 and 10,000 hymns. However, she lived in near poverty because she felt a strong calling to minister to those less fortunate.

The performance, which features songs and stories from Crosby’s life, will last approximately 56 minutes.

“I haven’t done it here on campus in two years,” O’Neal said. “We invited all the high schools in our service area to come. I’m hoping we’ll have people from the surrounding schools. And I just wanted to reach out to the community in case some of them haven’t seen it.”

O’Neal penned this play after conducting research which culminated in a trip to New York City, where she visited the New York Institution for the Blind where Crosby received her education and served as a teacher. She also visited the New York Public Library and viewed Crosby’s personal scrapbook; the Bowery Mission where Crosby did social work; and Plymouth Church, where Crosby listened to her favorite preachers.

To date, Dr. O’Neal has performed this play 44 times in various locations, including her home town of Carthage, in Troup, Frost, Turnertown, Houston, the Snap community, the Woods community, Kerens, Corsicana, Lampasas, Grand Saline, Brady, Hewitt, Eureka, Killeen, and Arlington.

Dr. O’Neal celebrated her 40th birthday by performing at the Bowery Mission in New York City where Mrs. Crosby spent the latter half of her life ministering to others. Last summer, she performed at a prominent African-American church in Washington, D.C.

O’Neal has written 22 plays, two of which have won the Texas state playwriting award given by TETA (Texas Educational Theatre Association), and three of which have been published by The Parish Press. This is her first one-woman show.

Dr. O’Neal received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Theatre from The University of Texas at Tyler and her Ph.D. in Theatre from Louisiana State University. She taught for three years at U.T. Tyler and for the past 13 years has served as the Director of Theatre at Navarro College in Corsicana, where she has directed over 50 productions. She is a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Corsicana where she sings in the choir.

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