Voices Of History: Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder resonates today

Voices Of History: Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder resonates today
MONICA HOOPER
mhooper@nwadg.com

When Laura Ingalls Wilder first published “Little House in the Big Woods,” things had begun to change slowly for women at the time. The 19th amendment was 12 years old, and Hattie Caraway had become the first woman elected to the Senate, but vocations were still limited for women. Trying to make ends meet during the financial hardships of the Great Depression, Wilder reluctantly wrote the books detailing her early life on the plains. Her first book was a hit, which led her to write more, which together eventually served as the basis for the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series, which ran for nine seasons from 1974 to 1983.

Arts Live Theater will share a production titled “Laura Ingalls Wilder: Voice of the Prairie” April 15-16 and April 21-24 at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale. In the outdoor show, the grounds of the museum will provide a fitting backdrop for the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The best part? The play will be in the hands of Sophie Moody, 15, and Raedyn Courtney, 13, both of whom will serve as assistant directors. The duo were asked to step up as veterans of the theater, who’ve acted in more than 40 shows combined despite their young ages.

“There is a wonderful cycle in any youth program, of watching the kids grow up. As last year’s leaders move on, the next batch of leaders steps up to fill the space. Sophie and Raedyn are that. As assistant directors, they are not only a huge help in organizing and logistics, but they are both actors, so they can offer those observations, also,” enthuses director and teaching artist Jules Taylor.

“Arts Live means a lot to me because I’ve been doing it for so long. And it’s just been like, a really big part of my life,” Raedyn says. Sophie explains that it’s a promotion of sorts, “kind of like a buildup of trust as you go along. If you do well as an actor, [then] a director, whenever their other assistant director goes off to college, they’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a new assistant director, and I fancy you.’”

“They just asked us to do it because they’ve known us for a long time, because we’ve been in other shows, and they trust us with this job and they think that we’re the right fit for it,” Raedyn says. For the role of assistant director, Raedyn says that “we kind of help manage everything. We make sure everyone’s focused at all times, make sure [the actors are] running their lines, make sure they’re remembering everything. And we help with the rehearsal itself, and we write down their blocking, and we just kind of help everyone know where they’re supposed to be and what’s happening.”

Julia Hill, left, is Laura; Daniel Wilhite is Pa and Haleigh Ann Staley is Mary in “Laura Ingalls Wilder: Voice of the Prairie,” presented outdoors at the Shiloh Museum by Arts Live Theatre. (Courtesy Photo)

Both are taking cues and learning the ropes from Taylor, who has not only been teaching them how to direct a play, but has been explaining the history behind the story and the motivation for the characters’ actions.

When asked how she feels kids today relate to this story, Taylor says “on one hand, being here, at (what we hope is) the very beginning of the post-pandemic age, they see that hardships exist through out history — they just went through one of their own that will have historical significance. And, on the other hand, theater and all the arts are excellent at teaching history, so they get to understand more about the formation of America at that time with this particular show. And it also helps them understand that there are some basic qualities that exist in human relationships no matter their time period.”

Both assistant directors say that they can see why Wilder’s stories have endured from generation to generation.

“It’s very cool to see the way that people grew up in the 1800s. Especially a woman writing a book, because that’s not that common in that day and age,” Sophie adds. She will also fill in as Rose, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The show won’t focus just on her time on the prairie, it also includes Wilder’s life during the time that she wrote her famous books, a revolutionary act in itself.

“It’s [a story of] woman’s rights … That’s what the end of the story is about, it’s is what they’re fighting for and striving for and the protests and stuff that are happening — the generation that Rose is a part of,” Raedyn explains. She adds that the play allows young people to “realize the stuff that they went through to to be where we are today and the growth that had to happen for us to even be here right now. And I think that’s an important lesson for a lot of kids to learn and know.”

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FAQ

‘Laura Ingalls Wilder:

Voice of the Prairie’

WHEN — 6:30 p.m. April 15; 2 & 6:30 p.m. April 16; 6:30 p.m. April 21-22; 2 & 6:30 p.m. April 23; 2 p.m April 24

WHERE — Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, 118 W. Johnson Ave. in Springdale

COST — $10 for students, $12 for adults

INFO — www.artslivetheatre.com

FYI — In the case of rain, the performance will move to the Shiloh Meeting Hall, 121 W. Huntsville Ave., two blocks north of the main museum building.

Categories: Family Friendly