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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 [inactive 10/05) 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 10 historical dramas and three plays by English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
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 13 shows. 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 21-24 and 28-31. 919/250-9336 (919/212-3598 for group rates). African American Cultural Complex, 119 Sunnybrook Rd., Raleigh, NC 27610. 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-Sunday, June 30-Aug. 13. 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-Monday, July 1-4; 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 8-Aug. 13, and possibly Thursday, Aug. 4 and 11. 828/874-0176. Old Colony Players, Post Office Box 112, Valdese, NC 28690. http://www.oldcolonyplayers.com/ [inactive 2/06].
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. 8:15 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, June 18-Aug. 13. Note 1: June 18th grand opening includes 6 p.m. “Music Under the Stars” concert starring legendary singer/guitarist Doc Watson, and on Aug. 6th there will be a 6 p.m. special event that features Christian pop band of Eric Horner. Note 2: Godspell will play Aug. 16-28. 888/825-6747 or 828/264-2120. Southern Appalachian Historical Association, Post Office Box 295, Boone, NC 28607. http://www.horninthewest.com/ [inactive 9/05].
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 39th 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 through July 2. 704/764-7159. Waxhaw Historical Festival and Drama Association, 3115 Little Tom Starnes Road, Monroe, NC 28112.
The Lost Colony, Waterside Theatre, Manteo, NC. Paul Green, playwright. Original symphonic drama, in its 68th year, on the mysterious disappearance of the first English colony to settle in America, after its arrival on Roanoke Island in 1587. 8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday through Aug. 19. Box office 866/468-7630 or 252/473-3414, management 252/473-2127. 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, playwright. 7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Henry V (1599), a history play, through June 26; The Comedy of Errors (1592-93), a comedy, July 8-31. 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 through June 26. The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1594-95), a comedy. Note: Admission is free. Shakespeare on the Green, 208 N. 17th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401; 910/762-6393 or email@example.com. http://www.shakespeareonthegreen.us/ [inactive 1/07].
The Sword of Peace and Pathway to Freedom, plus Fiddler on the Roof and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 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. Pathway to Freedom, Mark Sumner, playwright: Slavery opponents and free blacks help hundreds of escaped slaves flee north before the Civil War. The two plays alternate nights Thursdays-Saturdays, July 1-Aug. 14. The musical Fiddler on the Roof will be performed nightly Aug. 23-27. All night shows will start at 8 p.m. A children’s show, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, will play at 10 a.m. Saturdays July 9-Aug. 27. Box office, 800-726-5115; management, 336-376-6948. Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre, Post Office Box 535, Snow Camp, NC 27349-0535. http://www.snowcampdrama.com/ [inactive as of this posting - 6/9 - but we expect it to be working soon...].
Unto These Hills, Mountainside Theatre, Cherokee, NC. Kermit Hunter, playwright, and Jack F. Kilpatrick and McCrae Hardy, composers. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee from arrival of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540 to removal to Oklahoma on the tragic trail of tears. Cherokee leaders Junaluska, Tsali, and Sequoyah fight for the tribe’s survival. 7:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday though Aug. 20. 866/554-4557 or 828/497-2111. Cherokee Historical Association, Post Office Box 398, Cherokee, NC 28719. http://www.untothesehills.com/.