80th Anniversary for The Lost Colony

Tony Award Winning Play Gears Up for 2017 Season
Native Americans dance a welcome as the first English colonists of the Lost Colony arrive.
Native Americans dance a welcome as the first English colonists of the Lost Colony arrive.

When Paul Green wrote the script for The Lost Colony in 1937 he probably didn’t expect the play to run for 80 years. But that is what has happened.

Last night, Friday, Many 26 when the lights went up at the Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island it marked the 80th year for the play—a remarkable achievement by any standard.

Paul Green’s Script

Paul Green, was a North Carolina resident and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright when he was approached by a group of Manteo business men hoping to bring some measure of economic activity to the Outer Banks in the depths of the Great Depression.

The play succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest hopes and in August of the first year’s run, President Roosevelt made a trip to Manteo to see the play.

The play tells the story of Roanoke Colony…the Lost Colony. Attempting to establish a permanent English settlement in North America in 1585, the 120 colonists disappeared without a trace. The mystery of their fate endures until today.

A fairly accurate depiction of the forces at work that doomed the colony is contained in the play. The competing factions of the Native Americans living in the area are part of the plot; the wanton cruelty of some of the English decisions about the Indians is touched upon if not emphasized.

Perhaps most importantly the role the Spanish played in the New World and the Spanish Armada that attempted to invade England are important facets of the tale.

The 2017 Performance

The play has remained remarkably true to Green’s original script, although there have been some adjustments over the years.

The pacing of the play has been has been improved so that it moves a bit faster than the original.

William Ivey Long, who has won multiple theater awards is the production designer, and the staging of the play reflects his Broadway and movie experience.

An outdoor experience, the play, though has endured because of the power of its message and the beauty of its setting.

The play runs through the summer with the last performance Saturday, August 19.

Lost Colony to Celebrate 80 Years

Scene from The Lost Colony opening night 2016.
Scene from The Lost Colony opening night 2016.
A Play Worth the Memories

It’s never too early to celebrate success and with the 80 anniversary of The Lost Colony coming this summer, it seems like a good time to call attention to America’s longest running outdoor drama.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green, the play tells the story of the first attempt by the English to colonize the New World. The story itself is exciting and Green did an outstanding job of telling the tale, but the play has remained successful because it’s production values and special effects.

The list of outstanding actors who have been a part of the cast is too long to list here, but just a short sampling gives some idea of what to expect for an evening of entertainment.

Andy Griffith was part of the cast for three years; Carl Kassel of NPR fame was Chief Wanchese in 1952; Tony Award winning designer William Ivey Long has been associated with the play for years.

Seeing a play outdoors is a different experience. Located on the north end of Roanoke Island there is usually a breeze coming off Roanoke Sound in the evening, although it does get warm sometimes.

However, the setting itself is magnificent. Bordering on Fort Raleigh National Historic Site—the theatre is actually on park grounds—the walk to Waterside Theatre is beautiful. Lined with trees, with the scent of a forest part of the experience, it feels almost as though a walk to the past is occuring.

Upcoming Show to Benefit The Lost Colony

There is a benefit show for the Lost Colony coming up Friday, April 7.

Greg Hahn will be bringing his insanely energetic humor to the Soundstage Theater. The Soundstage Theater used to be the dressing rooms and storage for The Lost Colony production, but improved facilities closer to the stage allowed the building to be converted to an indoor theater.

Hahn is a master a poking fun at the every day foibles of our lives. He seems to be a comedian who knows how to get some laughs with jokes that are safe for almost everyone in the family.

William Ivey Long and the Lost Colony

Noted for his attention to historic detail, this image from William Ivey Long Studios, shows how Long created a modern costume from a 16th century portrait.
Noted for his attention to historic detail, this image from William Ivey Long Studios, shows how Long created a modern costume from a 16th century portrait.

Now that we’re in May it’s just a few weeks before the The Lost Colony opens for the season at Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island. Opening night this year is Friday, May 27.

This will be the 79th year for the play. First staged in 1937 with the hope that it would last one season, it proved so successful that it was brought back in 1938  . . . and 1939, and in 2016 it’s still very much a part of the Outer Banks experience.

Over the years a number of well-known actors have been a part of the production—Andy Griffith starred as Sir Walther Raleigh in the late 1940s; Christopher Guest was part of the production n the 1980s; Lynn Redgrave played Queen Elizabeth. But if there is one well-known figure in the world of stage and film who has been associated with The Lost Colony’s Production Designer William Ivey Long.

Long is one of the most sought after costume and production designers on Broadway and in film. Over the years has won six Tonys and seven Drama Desk Awards, been elected to the Theatre Hall of Fame, and he is currently the Chairman of The American Theatre Wing.

Even before he was born, Long’s parents were part of The Lost Colony—his father’s history went back to the very beginning; he was a graduate assistant attending UNC  and he helped get the play off the ground in 1937.

His mother, Mary, played Queen Elizabeth for a number of years and his father eventually became the director.

He credits his lifelong fascination with design and costume to lessons he learned working with the production’s first costume director, Irene Smart Rains.

Although the play has been updated—especially some of the special effects and lighting—it is still very true to the original production that Paul Green wrote. It is the longest running outdoor play in North America, and the history it tells and the history of the play itself makes for a great evening of theatre.

Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates is a proud sponsor of The Lost Colony.

79th Season of Lost Colony Coming Soon


What a wonderful day we had today on the Outer Banks. The temperature climbed to the mid 70, there was a wonderful breeze from the south and the sun shone all day. That kind of day brings the yearning for summer to the top of the list.

With thoughts of summer, one summer activity that Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates. has been sponsoring for years and takes a lot of pride in supporting is the Lost Colony.

This is theatre at its best—great acting, wonderful songs, a little bit of dancing and a compelling story based on based on a historic puzzle that has remained unanswered for 430 years.

The 79th Anniversary of the Paul Green classic outdoor theatre also includes production design with great special effects and lighting from six time Tony award winner William Ivey Long.

Performed at the Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island, the Lost Colony is the longest running outdoor drama in North America—and the outdoor feature of the performance is something to keep in mind. Generally evening temperatures are very pleasant, but for the first two weeks, it can get a little bit chilly at times. Bug spray might be good to have as well.

A performance of the Lost Colony is a grand evening of entertainment, though. So pick an evening, reserve some tickets and take in the show.

The play runs from May 27-August 20