'I Ain't Made That Way' makes way home to Wise County

Stephen Igo • Updated Aug 21, 2017 at 1:47 PM

KEOKEE — “I Ain’t Made That Way,” a play coauthored by the late Dink Shackleford, who grew up in Keokee, and Big Stone Gap native Amelia Townsend, makes its way to his Lee and Wise County stomping grounds over Labor Day weekend with performances in Keokee and Appalachia.

“I Ain’t Made That Way” presents the members of the fictional Van Buren family as they gather to celebrate the accomplishments of their favorite son. Based in part on the memories and real-life experiences of Shackleford — an outrageously colorful “broke the mold” Southwest Virginia character in his own right who, among other career roles, served as executive director of the Virginia Mining Association — the play features the talents of DJ Neace, who played Jack Hale in “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” outdoor drama.

Townsend directs the play.

“We are deeply humbled to bring this important work home to our families and friends,” she said. “Having this play, which drew capacity audiences at its performance at (the Southwest Virginia Museum’s annual “Gathering in the Gap” music festival) and in Fairfax, and having an alumnus of (the “Trail” drama) playing the lead character is a true honor. Dink would have been so proud.”

At 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, the Shoestring Theatre Company will present “I Ain’t Made That Way” during the Keokee High School Alumni Association’s 2017 reunion in the school gym. Contact the group via its Facebook page for details.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, the company will present the play on the stage of the Appalachia Cultural Arts Center in Appalachia. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased in advance by calling Gary Bush at (276) 565-1386 or Glenn Gannaway at (276) 523-3977.

The Shoestring Theatre Company is a new community troupe created to connect cultural themes across Virginia, Townsend said. Board members include Tabitha Hibbitts, Deana Goodwin Stoddard and Gannaway.

Townsend and Shackleford also collaborated to pen the 2004 novel “Keepsakes For the Heart,” based on the true story of a Virginia woman who was put out to work at age 5, became homeless and fought her way to a home and family. The novel was nominated for the prestigious Old North State Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

Shackleford and Townsend also coauthored several other projects. Their play “The Best Doctor in Town” will be produced by Shoestring Theatre Company next year.

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