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8 days in Paradise; Play revisits kidnapping

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, January 10, 2018
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Cast and Crew

CAST AND CREW – Adrienne Faulhaber, Kyah Shannon, Jan Payne-Pierce, Wayne Smith, Slade Shannon, Rob Little and Jim Taylor are putting on two final encore performances of “Eight Days in Paradise” Saturday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

In 1933, Wise County played a role in a national news story when Oklahoma oilman Charles Urschel was kidnapped by George “Machine Gun” Kelley and brought to Paradise.

That kidnapping is the subject of the play “Eight Days in Paradise,” which will have two final encore performances at 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 13) at the Wise County Heritage Museum. Tickets are $10.

Donna Weeden, the president of Paradise Historical Society, wrote and directed the play, which pieces together Urschel’s time in Paradise as a captive of Kelley and the Shannon family, who owned the farmhouse where Kelley hid Urschel.

Using FBI records, contemporary news accounts, interviews and books, Weeden and the cast and crew have recreated those eight days from Urschel’s kidnapping to his release.

“It’s just a topic that everyone wants to know about,” Weeden said. “It’s pretty crazy.

“People enjoy crime drama, and they like local history.”

Kidnapped

KIDNAPPED – Jim Taylor plays Charles Urschel, the kidnapping victim of George “Machine Gun” Kelley. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The play began as a way to raise money for the new Paradise Museum, and Weeden said it was unexpectedly popular during its first run in November. Several members of the Shannon family, descendants of the original kidnappers, attended, which surprised Weeden. Two Shannons are actually in the cast and crew – Slade Shannon even plays his great-grandfather, Armon.

“For a long time the Shannon family didn’t want to talk about it,” Weeden said. “Now it seems like they don’t mind.”

Because of the popularity of the play, the Historical Society added encore performances, the last of which will benefit not only the Paradise Museum but also the Wise County Heritage Museum, where the play is performed.

“One of the highlights of this whole thing is having the play in a restored theater,” Weeden said. “It’s nice people get to experience that.”

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