Strip Search

Looking for Ozark culture amid the neon, glitter and traffic of Highway 76 in Branson

The Shepherd of the Hills is the story of a man who comes to the Ozarks in search of spiritual renewal. He befriends the hillbilly locals and becomes a teacher to them. He tutors gentleness in men and women, brings literacy to the holler.

But all is not pastoral sublime. A band of redneck ruffians threatens the peace in the hills. They drink moonshine, disrespect women, bully men — and rob banks. They supply the menace of unreason.

After a number of plot twists, coincidences and a few rowdy stage fights, the true-love interests find themselves together and redemption comes to all who deserve it, which does not include the bad guys, who are gunned down by a sheriff's posse.

Branson offers its own version of Mount Rushmore at the Hollywood Wax Museum.
Branson offers its own version of Mount Rushmore at the Hollywood Wax Museum.
Branson offers its own version of Mount Rushmore at the Hollywood Wax Museum.
David Burt
Branson offers its own version of Mount Rushmore at the Hollywood Wax Museum.

The "shepherd" sees the young people he's tutored come to wholeness, displaying the integrity, dignity and morality that are innately their own.

But he questions himself during a moment of crisis in the play. Are the cultured ways he's brought to these people of real value, or a hindrance to them? Has the integrity of these people, this region, been sullied, compromised beyond repair?

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