Thursday, August 9, 2007

The End of An Era

The end of history

Scott J. Parker grew up on 'The Lost Colony.' Now, as that outdoor drama turns 70, he's leaving the helm of the institute that helps bring the past to life

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Better Than School

Outdoor dramas are a breed apart from ordinary theater. Because they're family friendly and generally presented in temperate climates, they draw large numbers of tourists who may not ordinarily support theater.

Although Shakespeare abounds in the national roster, many outdoor dramas -- including "The Lost Colony" -- have a mission that goes beyond classical theater or pure entertainment. They are devoted to dramatizing important but sometimes little-known historical events on or near the locations where they occurred.

"I've had people say to me all my life, 'I've learned more about North Carolina history by going to its outdoor dramas than I did in school,' " says Parker, whose 17 years at the institute have made him a walking history book.

One constant over the decades has been the dirt path actors take between the theater and the staff parking lot late at night, under a canopy of trees that blocks the moonlight. Locals swear that colonist ghosts still roam the grounds.

Parker feels their presence, too. "I get chills talking about this," he says. "Especially after the show -- if it's done well, if it's a strong, emotional ending -- boy, you come out and you have been touched."