Melissa Gerth, in the starring role as Mary Draper Ingles, tries to protect George Ingles, played by Laken Thompson, and Tommy Ingles, portrayed by Amelia Arndt, during a Shawnee raid.

Steve Frey

There is something extraordinary about opening night for any play. The actors have worked hard to learn every line and nuance and are eager to perform. They are excited to feed off of the responses of a large, enthusiastic audience. Those were the exact feelings in the air last Sunday for “Walk To Freedom: The Mary Draper Ingles Story.”

In fact, those exact sentiments have been experienced by thousands of Radford audiences, actors and stage crews since 1971 with the initial telling of Mary’s story in “The Long Way Home.”

Yes, just like the magical feeling many experience at Christmas or on other special holidays, it’s Mary Draper Ingles Season in Radford.

The latest version of Ingles’ story was performed by an ensemble that left the audience with not just the narrative of her courageous journey back home from Shawnee captivity, but also some food for thought about the strength of a people, and in this case, a strong Appalachian woman, and what the human spirit can achieve in the most arduous of situations. Another dominant theme is the love of family and home; a love that can carry the day against anything when it is strong enough.

Melissa Gerth, who comes to Walk To Freedom with a variety of national and international theater and dance credits,…

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