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.

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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