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Ancient Greece may be the birthplace of outdoor drama, but prize-winning Chapel Hill playwright Paul Green (1894-1981) invented the "symphonic drama of American history" when The Lost Colony (http://www.uncpress.unc.edu/chapters/green_lost.html) premiered on Roanoke Island in 1937, the 350th anniversary of the first English attempt to plant a permanent settlement on the North American continent. (Green won the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for In Abraham's Bosom.)
The Lost Colony soon became a lucrative tourist attraction for the remote and sparsely settled Outer Banks. other Tar Heel communities took note and followed Manteo's lead by commissioning their own outdoor dramas. This year, the State of the Arts will be home to 12 historical dramas, three plays by English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616), and one play by 18th century English playwright Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74).
I have lightly edited the thumbnail descriptions of the following shows from news releases and other information from the Institute of Outdoor Drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC News Services, as well as information gleaned from the outdoor dramas web sites. This article provides basic facts about and contact information for all 14 outdoor dramas. For more information about the Institute and its director, Scott J. Parker, see http://www.unc.edu/depts/outdoor/ [inactive 9/09]. To read Parker's article on how outdoor dramas became a national phenomenon, see http://www.unc.edu/depts/outdoor/scottarticle.html [inactive 9/09].
This summer, N.C. outdoor dramas include, in alphabetical order:
Amistad Saga: Reflections, African American Cultural Complex, Raleigh, NC. Ann Hunt Smith, playwright, and Reggie Jeffries, composer. The only outdoor drama written, directed, and produced by African-Americans chronicles an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship and the resulting U.S. Supreme Court case, with speeches, song, and dance. 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, July 20-23 and 27-30. 919/250-9336. African American Cultural Complex, 119 Sunnybrook Rd., Raleigh, NC 27606-2424. http://www.aaccmuseum.org/.
Blackbeard: Knight of the Black Flag, Ormond Amphitheatre, Bath, NC. Stuart Aronson, playwright. Tales of the notorious outlaw of the early 1700s, who commanded more than 300 pirates and four sailing vessels. Organizers in Bath, Blackbeard's home port, are reviving the play for the first time since 1987 as part of the town's tricentennial this year. The tale profiles the ferocious pirate, whose real name was Edward Teach, as seen through the eyes of his wife, Mary Ormond. She also perceives a sensitive and compassionate side of his character. 8:45 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 29-Aug. 19. 252/923-4171. Ormond Amphitheatre, 3536 N.C. 92 East, Bath, NC 27808. http://www.ormondamphitheatre.com/ [inactive 6/08].
First for Freedom, Halifax County Historic Courthouse, NC. Max Williams, playwright. Events leading to the signing on April 12, 1776, of the Halifax Resolves, the first formal declaration of independence from Great Britain by an American colony. Friday-Sunday, June 30-July 2 and Tuesday, July 4. 252/583-2261. Eastern Stage Inc., 14511 Hwy. 903, Halifax, NC 27839.
From this Day Forward, Old Colony Amphitheatre, Valdese, NC. Fred Cranford, playwright. Story of the Waldenses, a religious sect that arose in southeast France in the 1100s, their struggle to survive persecution in their homeland and their eventual arrival in North Carolina to establish a colony in 1893 at Valdese. Includes music and dance. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, July 7-Aug. 12. 828/874-0176. Old Colony Players, Post Office Box 112, Valdese, NC 28690. http://www.oldcolonyplayers.com/ [inactive 2/10].
Horn in the West, Hickory Ridge Homestead, Boone, NC. Kermit Hunter, playwright, and Peter MacBeth, composer. In North Carolina's southern Appalachians during the American Revolution, frontiersman Daniel Boone and his settlers struggle against the British militia. Museum and homestead on site. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, June 16-Aug. 12. 888/825-6747. Southern Appalachian Historical Association, Post Office Box 295, Boone, NC 28607. http://www.horninthewest.com/.
Listen and Remember, Waxhaw Amphitheater, Waxhaw, NC. Belva Dare Steele, playwright. Tales of the pioneers who settled this Union County region, home of the Waxhaw Indians, and the early days of future U.S. President Andrew Jackson. Besides the play [now in its 40th season], the site features the Andrew Jackson Memorial Museum of the Waxhaws, with Indian artifacts, swords and a uniform from the Revolutionary War, and more. 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, June 16-July 1. 704/764-7159 or 843-2877. Waxhaw Historical Festival and Drama Association, 3115 Little Tom Starnes Road, Monroe, NC 28112.
The Lost Colony, Waterside Theatre, Manteo, NC. Paul Green, playwright. The original symphonic drama, in its 69th year, on the mysterious disappearance of the first English colony to settle in America, after its arrival on Roanoke Island in 1587. This year, the show will have a new "Plymouth" scene and a new sound system. THE LOST COLONY will be staged by British director Jane McCulloch, the founder and artistic director of the English Chamber Theater , and choreographed by Barbara Dare Hartwig. 8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, June 2-Aug. 18. 800/488-5012 or 252/473-3414. Roanoke Island Historical Association Inc., 1409 National Park Rd., Manteo, NC 27954. http://www.thelostcolony.org/.
The Montford Park Players, Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, Asheville, NC. William Shakespeare and Oliver Goldsmith, playwrights. The Tempest and HAMLET by Shakespeare and She Stoops to Conquer by Goldsmith will be performed during the 34th season of North Carolina's longest-running Shakespeare Festival. 7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, June 16-Sep. 17: The Tempest (June 16-July 9), Hamlet (July 21-Aug. 13), and She Stoops to Conquer (Sept. 8-17). Note: Admission is free. Montford Park Players, 246 Cumberland Ave., Asheville, NC 28801; 828/254-5146. http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/.
Shakespeare on the Green, Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, Wilmington, NC. William Shakespeare, playwright. 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, June 2-25. For the festival's 14th season, Don Baker will direct the classic comedy Love's Labour's Lost. Note: Admission is free. Shakespeare on the Green, 208 N. 17th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401; 910/762-6393 or firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.shakespeareonthegreen.us/ [inactive 1/07].
Strike at the Wind, Adolph L. Dial Amphitheater, 638 Terry Sanford Rd., Pembroke, NC. Randolph Umberger, playwright, and Willie French Lowery, composer. This 30-year-old drama depicts the life and mysterious disappearance of North Carolina Lumbee Indian outlaw Henry Berry Lowrie, whose exploits in the years after the Civil War earned him a reputation as the American Robin Hood. 8:30 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays*, July 1-Aug. 26. 910/521-0835. Carolina Arts Network Inc., Post Office Box 1350, Pembroke, NC 28372. http://www.strikeatthewind.com/ [inactive 4/09].
The Sword of Peace and Pathway to Freedom, plus Smokey Joe's Café and Peter Pan, Snow Camp Historic Amphitheatre, Snow Camp, NC. Sword of Peace, William Hardy, playwright: During the Revolution, Cane Creek Society of Friends defends belief in non-violence. 8 p.m. June 29-July 1; July 13, 15, 21, 27, and 29; and Aug. 4, 10, 12, and 18. Pathway to Freedom, Mark Sumner, playwright: Slavery opponents and free blacks help hundreds of escaped slaves flee north before the Civil War. 8 p.m. July 6-8, 14, 20, 22, and 28; and Aug. 3, 5, 11, 17, and 19. The musical Smokey Joe's Café will be performed nightly Aug. 22-26. All night shows will start at 8 p.m. A children's show, Peter Pan, will play at 10 a.m. Saturdays July 8-Aug. 19. Box office, 800/726-5115. Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre, Post Office Box 535, Snow Camp, NC 27349-0535. http://www.snowcampdrama.com/.
Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend, Forest Edge Community Amphitheatre, Hwy. 421 North, Wilkesboro, NC, and Benton Hall, 300 D St., North Wilkesboro, NC. An 1868 Wilkes County love triangle results in the murder of one woman and subsequent hanging of Tom Dula (pronounced "Dooley"). Legend has it that he confessed to the murder to protect is true love. The sixth season of this indoor/outdoor drama will be performed outdoors at 8:30 p.m. June 24, 25, and 27-30 at the Forest Edge Community Amphitheatre and indoors at 7:30 p.m. July 20-22 and 27-29 and 2 p.m. July 23 and 30 in Benton Hall. Note: The Kingston Trio, who popularized the ballad of "Tom Dooley," will perform a sold-out special preshow grand-opening concert outdoors on June 23rd. 336/838-7529. Wilkes Playmakers Inc., P.O. Box 397, North Wilkesboro, NC 28659. http://www.wilkesplaymakers.com/.
Unto These Hills, Mountainside Theatre, Cherokee, NC. Hanay Geiogamah, playwright, and Dennis Yerry, composer. The history of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, with a new script and score and more Native American actors, dances, customs and legends, written and directed by Hanay Geiogamah, Kiowa/Delaware, theater and American Indian studies faculty member at UCLA. 8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, June 8-Aug. 19. 866/554-4557 or 828/497-2111. Cherokee Historical Association, Post Office Box 398, Cherokee, NC 28719. http://www.untothesehills.com/. (For the June 9th Asheville Citizen-Times article concerning the changes in Unto These Hills, see http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060609/ENT05/60608039/1037/ENT [inactive 4/08].)