Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lost Colony Drama has Long History of Pleasing the Public

This Month in North Carolina History
July 1937 - The Lost Colony

Program from the first "Lost Colony" production, 1937.

On the 4th of July, 1937, a new form of American drama was born on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, as a part of the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first English settlers in North America. The Roanoke Island Historical Association, led by W. O. Saunders, editor of the Elizabeth City Independent, and D. B Fearing, a state Senator from Dare County, approached Pulitizer Prize-winning North Carolina author Paul Green about writing a play on the Roanoke settlement of 1587. Saunders, on a recent trip to Germany, had seen the outdoor religious plays at Oberammergau in Bavaria and wanted something similar for North Carolina. Green, as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, had been encouraged by his mentor, Professor Frederick Koch, to draw literary inspiration from local history and folklore. In fact, some years earlier, Green had written a one act play based on the Roanoke Island experience. Although he considered the play a failure, Green had been inspired by a visit to the island at the time and readily took on the job of writing the new play. Green envisioned a production that would combine drama, music, dance, and pageantry all in a sweeping outdoor setting. He called his creation The Lost Colony: A Symphonic Drama of American History .

Program from the 1952 "Lost Colony" featuring Andy Griffith as Sir Walter Raleigh.
Conceived in the depth of the Depression, when supporting funds were hard to find, The Lost Colony was made possible ultimately as a cooperative effort by local people and several state and federal agencies. Workers from the Roanoke Island camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps build the open-air Waterside Theatre where the play was performed and later several of them joined the cast.
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