Our family history with Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green’s The Lost Colony, longest running outdoor symphonic drama, is not as lengthy as some but is a lot longer than many and has its own thread of fun. True we’ve never had a Virginia Dare baby in the family. For those of you who might not know, once a summer on Virginia Dare’s birthday, real babies are used in five different scenes. Lewis was the only child in our family eligible for this role since Richmond was our base when the others were the right age, but at 6 months and very active, I figured that he would not really enjoy the entire acting gig and didn’t take him to auditions.
However, we have suffered the agony of the wooden bench seats with no backs and jockeying for a good seat since all tickets were general admission. Bug spray was not an option it was a necessity. Any form of local id got you in free on Dare Night that preceded the show’s official opening and really the only night to go if you were a local. Everyone was there, literally just about everyone in the county. It was great to see wintered over neighbors with greetings of ‘Hi!’ and ‘How are you?’ creating a familiar early summer cacophony of sound not that much different from the cicadas that came along later in the season.
Once purchased seats became the norm, Emily trained us early on to opt for ones on the Indian side at her friends in the colony recommendation. One year the colony was so jammed pack with theater goers every night the best we could do was get seats in the last row of the center section.
New to the Outer Banks in 1984 we were lucky enough to see the 400th production of the colony when Colleen Dewhurst was Queen Elizabeth for the 4th of July weekend. Our arrival almost matched that of Barbara Hird who came on board in 1986 as HRH (her royal highness), a role which she owned for 10 years and later marketed into several amazing HRH one act plays penned by lebame houston. Lisa Bridge followed Barbara as Queen Elizabeth and she too owned the role. In 2006 Lynn Redgrave was queen for a week as a favor to director friend Jane McCulloch. Our family grew up with magnificent queens.
In 2005 Donny & I were fortunate to be included as part of the freshly formed abridged concert version of the Lost Colony. TLC was to be the feature attraction at the Youghal Through the Ages festival in County Cork Ireland. The Life and Times of Sir Walter Raleigh was the theme that year and no one knew it better than lebame houston. Board member of TLC, lebame, along with then executive director/producer Carl Curnutte III, assured the folks of Youghal that we could deliver and we did. I was official photographer and Donny tenor in the small company. He was Ananias Dare and I can still hear him start the Final March song (in this version Ananias does not get killed off) with his strong deep tenor solo beginning. “O God that madest earth and sky and hedged the seas around, Who that vast firmament on high with golden stars hath bound. Oh God our father Lord above, O bright immortal one, Secure with in thy mercy, we walk this death alone.”
This was and remains the only time TLC has been performed outside the United States in any format. And we were there. It was grand. We got a special viewing of Sir Walter Raleigh’s home, now a private residence. We were feted endlessly and got invited to the back after hours rooms of many a pub, where joviality continued through the night. We were given tours of the countryside and even had a day or two off to take on Castle Blarney and a few other sights on our own.
In recent history the grands have become attracted to the show. Lots of changes have been made. There are always changes every year but these are actually pretty major. The show starts and ends earlier. Time was when you could put solid money on getting home after midnight, especially if you live on the better island as we who hail from Colington Island good naturedly tell our Roanoke Island friends. Scenes have been reworked and some even cut. One of my favorite show stoppers, the girl with the dress on fire, taken out for years, is back in. Actors now greet you after the show for photo opts and autographs.
And so with the show, our show, there is a constant ebb and flow, just like the tides around the barrier islands we call home, that is ever a part of The Lost Colony, our colony, the one that we lost, and found again.