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story.lead_photo.caption Award-winning stage actor April Matthis, left, and acclaimed poet Brittny Ray Crowell are two talented sisters who got their start amid a close-knit family in Texarkana. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Two sisters who grew up in Liberty-Eylau had a good year on the national arts front in 2020.

Brittny Ray Crowell, a poet, received grand-prize honors for the Lucy Terry Prince Prize from the Vermont-based literary magazine Mount Island. Her sister April Matthis recently landed off-Broadway's highest honor, an Obie Award, for a performance as the title character in the contemporary play "Toni Stone."

For April, this was the second time she landed the Obie. Meanwhile, Brittny is pursuing her Ph.D. in creative writing and literature at the University of Houston. It's a life of arts and letters for them.

For the Ray sisters, these talents were nurtured right here in Texarkana, as was the talent that also shines in their fellow Ray sisters, Dalphne and Danielle. They each have areas where they excel; each possess special talents to share.

"April is the oldest, then Dalphne, a teacher who was just named exemplary as a teacher in Dallas for the second time, then Danielle, who also has teaching experience and is the biggest nurturer overall," Brittny said.

April calls them a tight-knit, blended family.

For those four sisters, tapping into their imaginations was just part of family life. "In our family, humor has always been currency. Imaginative play and what I would later learn was improv, was led and sanctioned by our movie-buff mom," April said. "We watched so many movies on VHS we could quote them, and make a game out of it."

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