Seventy-three years ago, celebrated Chapel Hill, NC playwright Paul Green (1894-1981), who won the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for IN ABRAHAM’S BOSOM, pioneered a whole new genre, which he called a “symphonic drama of American history,” when he wrote THE LOST COLONY about the ill-fated 1587 English attempt to plant a permanent settlement on the North American continent. This perennial Tarheel tourist attraction premiered under the stars on Roanoke Island in 1937, on the 350th anniversary of the planting of that colony near present-day Manteo, NC. Sometime before 1590, the colonists disappeared, without a trace, and their fate is as yet undiscovered.
THE LOST COLONY, on the other hand, serves as a powerful tourist magnet. This state’s second-oldest outdoor drama, UNTO THESE HILLS, with a script by Kermit Hunter, premiered on June 30, 1950 at the Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee. Hunter’s script was rewritten in 2006 by Hanay Geiogamah and again in 2007 by Pat Allee and Ben Hurst. But since 2008, UNTO THESE HILLS has employed a revised script by Linda W. Squirrel and music by Dennis Yeary to provide audiences with a culturally authentic portrayal of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, from their Creation Myth through their infamous relocation to Oklahoma in 1838 via the infamous Trail of Tears — and into the present day.
Most of the following information about North Carolina’s growing number of outdoor dramas from Manteo to Cherokee was gleaned from the website of the Institute of Outdoor Drama (http://outdoordrama.unc.edu/) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the websites of the dramas themselves, which are listed below. (For a list of 2010 North Carolina outdoor dramas, see http://outdoordrama.unc.edu/directory/by-state/North Carolina.)
AMISTAD SAGA: REFLECTIONS (African American Cultural Complex, 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, July 15-25, at 119 Sunnybrook Rd., Raleigh, NC 27610). Ann Hunt Smith, original playwright; adapted by James A. House. Reggie Jeffries, composer. Directed by James A. House, the play chronicles an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship and the resulting U.S. Supreme Court case, with speeches, song, and dance. SHOW: http://www.aaccmuseum.org/amistad.html. PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.aaccmuseum.org/. TICKETS: 919/250-9336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. GROUP RATES: 919/212-3598.
The Charlotte Shakespeare Festival (Collaborative Arts Theatre, Wednesday-Sunday, June 3-Aug. 15). This is the fifth season of The Charlotte Shakespeare Festival. PRESENTER: http://www.charlotteshakespeare.com/. TICKETS: 704/625-1288 or email@example.com.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 3-20, 2010, at The Green Uptown, 401 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28202). William Shakespeare, playwright. In this early Shakespearean comedy, two sets of identical twins who were separated at birth turn Ephesus upside down as a succession of mistaken identities result in unwarranted accusations of unfaithfulness, beatings, etc. SHOW: http://www.charlotteshakespeare.com/currentseason.htm. VENUE: http://www.thegreenuptown.com/. PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://www.thegreenuptown.com/location.php.
OTHELLO (8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4-15, at the McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square, 345 N. College St., Charlotte, NC 28202). William Shakespeare, playwright. Evil Iago once again strokes the fires of the heroic Moor’s insane jealousy with false accusations of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness. SHOW: http://www.charlotteshakespeare.com/currentseason.htm. VENUE/PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://www.blumenthalcenter.org/.
FIRST FOR FREEDOM (Eastern Stage, Inc., 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 24-26, July 1-3, and July 8-10 at the 4-H Rural Life Center Amphitheatre, 13763 NC 903, Halifax, NC 27839). Maxville B. Williams, playwright. The drama traces events leading to the adoption on April 12, 1776, of the Halifax Resolves, which authorized North Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence from Great Britain. The unanimous vote by 83 state delegates at the Fourth Provincial Congress in Halifax was the first official action by a colony that called for independence. SHOW: http://www.visithalifax.com/component/option,com_eventlist/id,328/view,details/. VENUE: http://www.halifaxnc.com/4hrurallife/indexnew.cfm. TICKETS: 252/883-7119.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (Old Colony Players, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, July 9-Aug. 14, at the Fred B. Cranford Amphitheatre, Valdese, NC 28690). Fred B. Cranford, playwright. This is 43rd season of this story of the Waldenses, a religious sect that arose in southeast France in the 1100s, and their struggle to survive persecution in their homeland and their eventual arrival in North Carolina to establish a colony in 1893 at Valdese. SHOW: http://www.oldcolonyplayers.com/ftdf.html. PRESENTER: http://www.oldcolonyplayers.com/. TICKETS: 828/879-2126 or 888/VALDESE (825-3373).
HORN IN THE WEST (Southern Appalachian Historical Association, Inc., 8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, June 18-Aug. 14, in the Daniel Boone Amphitheatre, 591 Horn in the West Dr., Boone, NC 28607). Kermit Hunter, playwright; Peter MacBeth, composer. In North Carolina’s southern Appalachians during the American Revolution, frontiersman Daniel Boone and his settlers struggle against the British militia. SHOW/PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.horninthewest.com/. TICKETS: 828/264-2120 or http://www.etix.com/ticket/servlet/onlineSearch?action=venueSearch&venue_id=1865&cobrand=horninthewest.
THE LOST COLONY (Roanoke Island Historical Association Inc., 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, now-Aug. 20, except July 4th, at Waterside Theatre, 1409 National Park Dr., Manteo, NC 27954). Paul Green, playwright. The original symphonic drama speculates on what happened to the first permanent English colony in America, after its arrival on Roanoke Island in 1587. THE LOST COLONY will be directed by Robert Richmond, with production design by five-time Tony Award® winner William Ivey Long. SHOW/PRESENTER: http://www.thelostcolony.org/Performance.htm and http://www.thelostcolony.org/The_Lost_Colony.htm. VENUE: http://www.thelostcolony.org/Waterside_Theatre.htm. TICKETS: 252/473-3414, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.etix.com/. GROUP RATES (20+ tickets): 252/473-3414, email@example.com, or http://www.thelostcolony.org/Group.htm. PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://www.thelostcolony.org/Directions.htm. Additional productions will include:
o THE TALE OF THE FROG PRINCE (9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 17-Aug. 12 at Waterside Theatre). Kathy Hotchner, playwright, with music by Bill Roser and lyrics by Roser, Hotchner, and Steve Hotchner. “Hop over to see this delightful journey of a frog-turned-prince and how he found his true friends along the way. Face painting, balloon sculpting, and games to entertain children will begin 30 minutes prior to the performance.” SHOW: http://www.thelostcolony.org/Frog_Prince.htm.
o THE QUEEN’S FAIRY QUEST (3 p.m. Thursdays, June 24-Aug. 12, at Waterside Theatre). Duane Hahn, playwright. “Do you believe in fairies? Join her majesty Queen Elizabeth I as she and her royal court discover the world of fairies and find the fairy queen in this petite-drama. Event includes a royal audience with the Queen, complimentary souvenir program, theater backstage tour, and a feast of delicious royal treats. For the full experience, allow approximately two hours — actual run-times may vary. This event coincides with SIMON’S PIRATE ADVENTURE, so the whole family can choose their adventure.” SHOW: http://www.thelostcolony.org/tea_with_queen.htm.
o SIMON’S PIRATE ADVENTURE (3 p.m. Thursdays, June 24-Aug. 12 at Waterside Theatre). Ken Keating, playwright. “Bring your bawdy crew to this swashbuckling young-pirate adventure to be dressed like a pirate, talk like a pirate and act like a pirate. Enjoy Simon Fernando’s pirate friends in this creative production at Waterside Theatre. The ADVENTURE includes the short play, keepsake photo with frame of you with a pirate, a delicious pirate’s feast, and a theater backstage tour. For the full experience, allow approximately two hours — actual run-times may vary. This event coincides with THE QUEEN’S FAIRY QUEST, so the whole family can choose their adventure.” SHOW: http://www.thelostcolony.org/pirate_adventure.htm.
o THE WIZARD OF OZ (8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, July 30-31 and Aug. 6-7, at Waterside Theatre). John Kane, playwright, adapted from the book by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 motion-picture screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg and background music by Herbert Stothart. “One of the most beloved family musicals comes over the rainbow to Waterside Theatre’s stage as THE LOST COLONY company brings the classic characters of Oz to life with song and dance. Bring your munchkins, come over the rainbow, and join Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man on their grand journey to see the wizard for four nights.” SHOW: http://www.thelostcolony.org/wizard_of_oz.htm.
o Disney’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 (7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, at Waterside Theatre). David Simpatico, playwright, with music and lyrics by Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil, David N. Lawrence, Faye Greenberg, Randy Petersen, Kevin Quinn, Jamie Houston, Andy Dodd, Adam Watts, and Bryan Louiselle. SHOW: http://www.thelostcolony.org/hurrah_players.htm.
MIRACLE ON THE MOUNTAIN (, 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, July 29-30, and 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, July 31, Sloop Amphitheatre at the Crossnore School,, 100 DAR Dr., Crossnore, NC 28616). Bill Wilson, playwright. MIRACLE ON THE MOUNTAIN, directed by Cathy Stallings, is an adaptation of Crossnore School founder Mary Martin Sloop’s memoir. The play chronicles 60 years of Crossnore history as Mary Sloop and her husband, Eustace, both medical doctors, came to the mountains of Western North Carolina in the early 1900s as pioneers. They battled local traditions of moonshining, teen marriage, and pregnancy, and truancy and brought medical care, roads, electricity and education to the region. SHOW: http://www.crossnoreschool.org/pdfs/momposter.pdf. PRESENTER: http://www.crossnoreschool.org/. TICKETS: 828/733-4305.
The Montford Park Players (7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, May 20-Oct. 3 at Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, 100 Gay St., Asheville, NC 28801). North Carolina’s longest-running Shakespeare Festival opened its 38th outdoor season on May 20th with THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED), by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, which ran though May 30th. PRESENTER: http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/. VENUE/PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/entrance-public-section.asp?primary_doc_group_id=24583&doc_id=126065. TICKETS/GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 828/254-5146, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/entrance-public-user.asp?primary_doc_group_id=24573#.
o THE ASHEVILLE SHAKESPERIENCE RETURNS (7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, June 4-13, July 16-25, and Aug. 27-Sept. 5 at Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre). William Shakespeare, playwright. The greatest scenes from Shakespeare’s greatest plays, directed by Scott Keel, with special guests Craft III performing Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at 6:15 p.m. Friday-Sunday, June 4-6. SHOW: http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/entrance-public-user.asp?primary_doc_group_id=24573#.
o KING LEAR (7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, June 18-July 11 at Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre). William Shakespeare, playwright. Shakespeare’s epic tragedy of paternal pride and madness and filial ingratitude makes for a wild evening. SHOW: http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/entrance-public-user.asp?primary_doc_group_id=24573#.
o TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, July 30-Aug. 22, at Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre). William Shakespeare, playwright. This Shakespearean tragedy of lovers separated by circumstance is set against the backdrop of the last days of the Trojan War. SHOW: http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/entrance-public-user.asp?primary_doc_group_id=24573#.
o TWELFTH NIGHT (7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Sept. 10-Oct. 3 at Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre). William Shakespeare, playwright. This uproarious romantic comedy features some unforgettable comic characters, such as the pompous fool Malvolio, the drunken roisterer Sir Toby Belch, and the cowardly blowhard Sir Andrew Aguecheek. SHOW: http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/entrance-public-user.asp?primary_doc_group_id=24573#.
THE PROMISED LAND (Walk in the Light Productions, Inc., 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, June 25-26, at Ormond Amphitheatre, 3536 N.C. 92 East, Bath, NC 27808). Judy Downey, playwright. Kevin Hopkins and Sonya Stead, composers. “This family musical is based on the true story of a North Carolina family and their descendants as they struggled through the Revolutionary War and later sought religious freedom as they migrated with the Mormon pioneers to the West.” SHOW: http://www.baththeatre.org/promisedland.html. PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.baththeatre.org/. TICKETS: 252/923-5501 or 919/612-2136.
Shakespeare on the Green (Tuesday-Sunday, May 27-June 27 at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 1941 Amphitheater Dr., Wilmington, NC 28401). The FREE Shakespeare on the Green festival will celebrate its 18th season in 2010 at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. PRESENTER: http://www.myspace.com/shakespeareonthegreen. VENUE/PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://www.ci.wilmington.nc.us/. TICKETS: Admission is FREE. INFORMATION: 910/399-2878 or email@example.com.
o ROMEO AND JULIET (8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, June 1-17, at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater). William Shakespeare, playwright. The Immortal Bard’s timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers will once again pit Montagues against Capulets. SHOW: http://www.myspace.com/shakespeareonthegreen.
o THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, June 4-27, at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater). William Shakespeare, playwright. When the title character (Antonio) cannot replay a loan, the Jewish moneylender Shylock will once again demand his “pound of flesh.” SHOW: http://www.myspace.com/shakespeareonthegreen.
Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre (June 24-Aug. 28 in the Wilson Amphitheater at Snow Camp, NC 27349). PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.snowcampdrama.com/. PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://www.snowcampdrama.com/entrance-public-contact.asp?primary_doc_group_id=41052. TICKETS: 336/376-6948 or http://www.snowcampdrama.com/entrance-public-section.asp?primary_doc_group_id=45505#. Productions include:
o THE SWORD OF PEACE (8 p.m. June 24-26; July 8, 10, 16, 22, 24, and 30; and Aug. 5, 7, 13, 19, and 21 in the Wilson Amphitheater). William Hardy, playwright. “THE SWORD OF PEACE is a dramatic portrayal of the American Revolution. It enlightens the audience about the struggles the peaceful Quakers must face in a time of war. General Nathanael Green, second in command under General George Washington, is about to meet Lord Cornwallis, commander of the British Forces in America, at the battle of Guilford Courthouse. Simon Dixon, a Quaker miller, is faced with an important decision like that of his neighbors, take up arms and fight or remain true to his faith. Simon and other historical characters reveal their heart-torn decisions as you witness this exciting, action-packed dramatic tribute to the Quakers.” SHOW: http://www.snowcampdrama.com/.
o PATHWAY TO FREEDOM (8 p.m. July 1-3, 9, 15, 17, 23, 29, and 31 and Aug. 6, 12, 14, and 20 in the Wilson Amphitheater). Mark R. Sumner, playwright. Ann Hunt Smith, composer. “PATHWAY TO FREEDOM is an exciting account of the struggles and heroism of the 1840s and 1850s along the ‘Underground Railroad’ from North Carolina to Indiana. Both individuals and some of the organized religions fought slavery in the legislature and on the farms, while some, like Levi and Katie Coffin of Guilford County led volunteers and free slaves in clandestine efforts to help escaping slaves to freedom. The play centers on George Vestal, son of a slave owning family, and how and why he became a worker for the Underground Railroad. Events trace the actions of slave families in their hope of gaining freedom and dignity. The rich music in the play is based upon the music of the period and enriches the emotions that flow during the play. A story of conflict, of action, support of human dignity, and it urges us to work for what ought to be. It is a play about family courage. It helps to explain our past and shines a light to the future.” SHOW: http://www.snowcampdrama.com/.
o PINOCCHIO (7:30 p.m. July 7 and 21 and Aug. 4 and 18 and 10 a.m. July 17 and 31 and Aug. 14 in the Wilson Amphitheater). R. Eugene Jackson, playwright, David Ellis, composer. “Everybody loves the little wooden puppet Pinocchio. This dramatization of Carlo Collodi’s immortal fairy tale of the woodcarver Gepetto, who dreams of having a son. With the help of the Blue Fairy, Geppeto’s puppet comes to life. Bouncy singable songs add to the fun, suspense, and neverending excitement.” SHOW: http://www.snowcampdrama.com/.
o THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF BRER RABBIT (10 a.m. July 10 and 24 and Aug. 7 and 21 and 7:30 p.m. July 14 and 28 and Aug. 7 and 21 in the Wilson Amphitheater). Adapted from the stories of Joel Chandler Harris, with original music and lyrics by Peter Holland. “THE TALES OF UNCLE REMUS about a wily rabbit who out foxes Brer Fox, Brer Wolf, and Brer Bear are brought to life in this charming musical dramatization of the Joel Chandler Harris stories. By using his wits, Brer Rabbit is able to get out of all the scrapes with those critters and comes out smelling like a rose.” SHOW: http://www.snowcampdrama.com/.
o THE WIZ (8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Aug. 24-28 in the Wilson Amphitheater). William F. Brown, playwright. Charlie Smalls, music and lyrics. “A re-imaging of THE WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher from Harlem, who along with her dog Toto is lost in a snowstorm on the night of Thanksgiving and ends up in the Land of Oz. She learns the only way she can get home is go and see the Wiz. Along the way, she meets a scarecrow who wants a brain, a Tin Man who is in search of a heart, and a Lion who makes his living as a statue in front of the New York Public Library.” SHOW: http://www.snowcampdrama.com/.
TOM DOOLEY: A WILKES COUNTY LEGEND (Wilkes Playmakers, Inc., 8:30 p.m. July 1-3, 5-11, 13-17, Forest Edge Community Amphitheatre in Fort Hamby Park, 1534 S. Recreation Rd., Wilkesboro, NC 28697). Karen Wheeling-Reynolds, playwright. An 1868 Wilkes County love triangle results in the murder of one woman and subsequent hanging of Tom Dula (pronounced “Dooley”). SHOW: http://www.wilkesplaymakers.com/contente.asp?page_id=dooleye. PRESENTER: http://www.wilkesplaymakers.com/. TICKETS: 336/838-7529 or http://www.wilkesplaymakers.com/tickets.asp?page_id=goshopping.
UNTO THESE HILLS: A RETELLING (7:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, June 5-Aug. 9, at Mountainside Theatre, Drama Rd., Cherokee, NC 28719). Linda W. Squirrel, playwright; Kermit Hunter, original playwright. Dennis Yerry, composer. “A culturally authentic, entertaining drama about the Cherokee Indians as told from their perspective. The show portrays the unique story of the Cherokee from Creation through the infamous Trail of Tears and into today.” SHOW: http://www.cherokeehistorical.org/UntoTheseHills.html. PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.cherokeehistorical.org/. TICKETS: 866/554-4557. GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 866/554-4557; 828/497-2111, ext. 201; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Robert W. McDowell
Robert McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review of Raleigh, NC. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.E-mail RobertM748[at]aol.com to start your FREE subscription to this weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter.