The Lost Colony: America’s Oldest Mystery Brought to Life

“The Lost Colony” outdoor drama, staged at the Waterside Theater in Manteo, North Carolina, is a remarkable portrayal of one of America’s oldest and most intriguing mysteries: the disappearance of the English settlers on Roanoke Island.

Historical Backdrop of the Play

The play is set against the backdrop of the late 16th century when 117 English men, women, and children, led by Sir Walter Raleigh, arrived at Roanoke Island to establish a permanent English settlement in the New World. The narrative unfolds with the arrival of these settlers in 1587, the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America, and the mysterious disappearance of the entire colony just three years later, leaving behind the cryptic message “CROATOAN”.

Creation and Evolution

“The Lost Colony” was first staged in 1937, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green. It was part of a wider effort to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare’s birth. This monumental production initially intended for a single season, has become a revered North Carolina tradition, enchanting millions of viewers over the decades. Its historical significance is further highlighted by the fact that it is America’s longest-running outdoor symphonic drama.

Production Scale and Cultural Impact

This grand production engages over 100 actors, technicians, singers, dancers, designers, and volunteers each year. The Waterside Theater, where it is held, provides an open-air viewing experience, with the audience surrounded by live action on three sides. The stage is notably three times larger than most Broadway stages in New York City.

The drama’s success brought national attention to Roanoke Island and the Outer Banks, stimulating the local economy and even influencing the naming of streets in Manteo after historical figures from the drama.

Artistic Contributions and Legacy

The play has seen contributions from various artists over the years, including Albert Quentin “Skipper” Bell who designed the large-scale set, and notable music contributions from Lamar Stringfield and Eric Stapleton. The production, directed by Samuel Selden, saw involvement from various groups including the Carolina Playmakers and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“The Lost Colony” has been instrumental in shaping the careers of numerous artists, including Andy Griffith, who performed there from 1947 to 1953. The drama has served as a training ground for young artists, with many using their experience as a launchpad for successful careers in various artistic fields.

The Experience

Visitors to “The Lost Colony” can expect a riveting experience, filled with epic battles, Indian dances, and a portrayal of the life and challenges faced by the settlers.

The story is brought to life with stunning choreography, music, and theatrical direction, preserving the historical significance of this unresolved mystery

For more information, you can visit The Lost Colony’s official website and the Wikipedia page on The Lost Colony (play).