The Lost Colony Opens
On July 4, 1937, The Lost Colony debuted on Roanoke Island. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green, the symphonic play was the first outdoor drama. Although it was meant to last only one season, The Lost Colony is the longest-running theatrical production of its kind in the nation.
Roanoke Island residents commissioned Green to write and produce a play to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare in 1937. While Green was busy writing the play, residents constructed the Waterside Theater using Works Progress Administration funds and with labor supplied by the Civilian Conservation Corps. WPA funds were also used to hire out-of-work professional actors from New York to play the leads.
The Lost Colony opened to a packed house and, despite the economic hardships of the time, the play drew good crowds through the remainder of the summer. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt attended on August 18, the anniversary of Virginia Dare’s birth, the national attention that resulted insured that the production would return for a second season.
Now it its 76th season, The Lost Colony was awarded a Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater.
Other related resources:
- The N.C. Arts Council
- N.C. Arts Trails and Performing Arts from the N.C. Arts Council
- What’s With All the Drama?, an overview of outdoor dramas in North Carolina
- Works Projects in North Carolina, 1933-1941, an online exhibit from the State Archives
- That Magnificent Army of Youth and Peace: The Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina, 1933-1942 from N.C. Historical Publications
For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.