For nearly 80 years, the Waterside Theater on Roanoke Island, just off the coast of North Carolina, has staged “The Lost Colony,” described by the theater company as a “symphonic drama” that tells the story of the first English settlers on Roanoke Island.
In 1587, Queen Elizabeth I sent a group of 117 men, women and children to colonize the New World, where they arrived in July and built a small settlement on Roanoke Island. Three years later, when English ships returned to resupply the colony, no trace of the settlers was found. All that remained were a few structures and the word “croatoan” left carved on a wood hovel.
The production is an institution on the island and definitely worth your time. It has all the pageantry of a full-blown Broadway production, including its source material, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. It involves over 100 actors, technicians, designers and volunteers who prepare all spring to bring the play to life for its summer run. It’s unlike anything else you’ll experience on the Outer Banks.
The theater includes backstage packages with some tickets, allowing you to tour the production and its facilities before the show. The Waterside Theater was built in 1937 to showcase the play and has its own tale. It burned to the ground in 1947, was rebuilt the next year and then was swept it out to sea in 1960 by Hurricane Donna. The current structure has seen a number of updates and upgrades since being rebuilt after the hurricane.
Wrapped up in the story of “The Lost Colony” is the tale of Virginia Dare, the first baby born to the English settlers there on Aug. 18, 1587. Each summer for the Aug. 18 performance, the theater company has long had the tradition of casting Roanoke Island babies in that evening’s production. Also on that day, Roanoke Island celebrates its birthday with Virginia Dare Day Faire, held at Fort Raleigh National Park, just outside the Lost Colony Administration Building.
The production runs from May 27 to Aug. 20; doors open at 6 every night and the play begins at 7:30. Tickets range from $10 to $30.
(Photo Credit: Snassek/Flickr)