Cast of the Lost Colony, Manteo, NC. Courtesy Roanoke Island Historical Society
The Lost Colony
The mystery of the lost colony of Roanoke
Island has been passed down from generation to generation since
their discovered disappearance in 1590-three years after the
settlers from England landed. Did the 120 men, women, and children
assimilate with the friendly Croatoan natives or the Chesapeake
tribe? Or were they massacred by the unfriendly Wanchese tribe?
This legend gains more poignancy when you consider that Virginia
Dare, the first child born of English parentage in America, was
among these brave pioneers.
On July 4, 1937, the symphonic outdoor drama,
Lost Colony, opened its first season at Wayside Theatre at
Fort Raleigh, part of North Carolina's Outer Banks. It has
continued every summer since then, although the original 3,500-seat
amphitheater, which contained permanent sets on several stages, was
severely damaged twice. During its 1947 season, a disastrous fire
completely burned the main stage and other areas. A volunteer crew
of 100 quickly formed and rebuilt the theater in six days, and the
show went on. In 1960, Hurricane Donna destroyed the back stage and
weakened the main stage, but with the help of federal and state
funding, the theater was rebuilt even stronger. In 1996, the state
of North Carolina and the federal government awarded the Roanoke
Island Historical Association, which produces the play, $2 million
to renovate the theater, which included Americans with Disabilities
The Roanoke Colony Association-predecessor to the
Roanoke Island Historical Association- was organized in the 1880s
to acquire and protect the site of the first English colonization
efforts in the New World. In 1932, it was rechartered as the
Roanoke Island Historical Association, which turned the land deed
over to the National Park System in 1941. The Lost Colony Outdoor
Drama is part of the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, which is
administered by the National Park Service, and represents the
nation's only connection to Elizabethan England.
The play, which has drawn more than three million
people since it opened, was written by North Carolinian and
Pulitzer prize winner, Paul Green. This popular outdoor drama is
the result of efforts by the Roanoke Island Historical Association,
one of the oldest and largest nonprofit arts organizations in the
country, which provided the impetus to build the theater and
produce the play.
Just as the story of the Lost Colony is part of
America's heritage, the production of the Lost Colony is truly a
local legacy. Many cast, production, and crew members have stayed
with the play for decades, including generations of families. The
English expatriate, A.Q. "Skipper" Bell, who designed and built the
original amphitheater, continued to rebuilt and restore it until
his death in 1964.
Project documentation comprises
Colony 1999 souvenir program.
Originally submitted by: John Edwards, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.