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From Cherokee to Manteo, 27 Outdoor Dramas Brighten NC Summer Nights

June 22, 2008 - Statewide:


Ancient Greece may be the birthplace of outdoor drama, but prize-winning Chapel Hill playwright Paul Green (1894-1981) invented the “symphonic drama of American history” when The Lost Colony premiered on Roanoke Island in 1937, the 350th anniversary of the first English attempt to plant a permanent settlement on the North American continent. (Green won the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for In Abraham's Bosom.)

The Lost Colony soon became a lucrative tourist attraction for the remote and sparsely settled Outer Banks. Other Tar Heel communities took note and followed Manteo's lead by commissioning their own outdoor dramas. In 1947, the Western North Carolina Associated Communities approached the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, seeking to create a new outdoor drama. The resulting play, Unto these Hills, the state's second-oldest outdoor drama, premiered June 30, 1950, at Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee. Celebrating its 60th anniversary season this summer, the show, which is now produced by the Cherokee Historical Association, provides audiences with an authentic portrayal of the Cherokee Indians.

Over the next few months, the state's 13 outdoor theaters are slated to present a record-breaking 27 different productions — al fresco! Included in the lineup are 12 “symphonic” history dramas, nine Shakespeare plays, three Broadway-style musicals, and three children's plays.

Most of the following production information was provided by the Institute of Outdoor Drama (IOD), ... a public service agency of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As the only national organization dedicated to the advancement of the outdoor drama movement, the IOD helps promote over 100 theaters nationwide. They also compile the annual Directory of Outdoor Drama in the United States, available at http://outdoordrama.unc.edu.

[In TTR's publication, these events were listed alphabetically, by title. We show them here chronologically, by starting date.]

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Through Saturday June 6, Monday-Saturday June 8-13, Monday-Saturday June 15-20, Monday-Saturday June 22-27, Monday-Friday June 29 - July 3, Monday-Friday July 6-10, Monday-Saturday July 13-17, Monday-Friday July 20-24, Monday-Saturday July 27 - August 1, Monday-Friday August 3-7, Monday-Friday August 10-14, & Monday-Thursday August 17-20: The Lost Colony: Waterside Theatre, Manteo. Paul Green, playwright. The original symphonic drama, in its 72nd year, on the mysterious disappearance of the first English colony to settle in America, after its arrival on Roanoke Island in 1587. Directed by Robert Richmond, with production design by William Ivey Long. 8 p.m. Roanoke Island Historical Association Inc., 1409 National Park Rd., Manteo. 252/473-3414 http://www.thelostcolony.org/. Group discounts ( 20+) 252/473-2127.

Through Sunday June 7, & Wednesday-Sunday June 10-14: Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare, playright: 8 p.m. except Sundays at 6:30 p.m. Charlotte Shakespeare Festival. Collaborative Arts Theatre, Post Office Box 32875, Charlotte. 704/625-1288 or http://www.charlotteshakespeare.com/.

Friday-Saturday June 5-6, Monday-Saturday June 8-13, Monday-Saturday June 15-20, Monday-Saturday June 22-27, Monday-Saturday June 29 - July 4, Monday-Saturday July 6-11, Monday-Saturday July 13-18, Monday-Saturday July 20-25, Monday-Saturday July 27 - August 1, Monday-Saturday August 3-8, Monday-Saturday August 10-15, Monday-Saturday August 17-22, & Monday-Saturday August 24-29: Unto these Hills, Kermit Hunter & Linda W. Squirrel, playwrights: 7:30 p.m. A culturally authentic, entertaining drama about the Cherokee Indians as told from their perspective. The drama portrays the unique story of the Cherokee from Creation through the infamous Trail of Tears and into today. 7:30 p.m. Mountainside Theatre, Cherokee. Cherokee Historical Association, Cherokee. 828/497-2111, 866/554-4557, or http://www.cherokeehistorical.org/.

Friday-Sunday, June 5-7, Friday-Sunday June 12-14, Friday-Sunday June 19-21, & Friday-Sunday June 26-28: A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare, playwright. 7:30 p.m. Most productions are free. Montford Park Players, 246 Cumberland Ave., Asheville. 828/254-5146 or http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/.

Friday-Sunday June 5-7, Friday-Sunday June 12-14, Friday-Sunday June 19-21, & Friday-Saturday June 26-28: The Merry Wives of Windsor, William Shakespeare, playwright. 8 p.m. Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre, Wilmington. Free. Shakespeare on the Green, 208 N. 17th Street, Wilmington. 910/762-6393.

Tuesday-Thursday June 9-11, & Tuesday-Thursday June 16-18: The Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare, playwright. 8 p.m. Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre, Wilmington. Free. Shakespeare on the Green, 208 N. 17th Street, Wilmington. 910/762-6393.

Thursday June 18, Tuesday & Thursday June 23 & 25, Tuesday & Thursday June 30 & July 2, Tuesday & Thursday July 7 & 9, Tuesday & Thursday July 14 & 16, Tuesday & Thursday July 21 & 23, Tuesday & Thursday July 28 & 30, Tuesday & Thursday August 4 & 6, & Tuesday & Thursday August 11 & 13: Charlotte's Web: Joseph Robinette, playwright; based on the story by E.B. White. 9:30 a.m. Roanoke Island Historical Association Inc., 1409 National Park Rd., Manteo. 252/473-3414 http://www.thelostcolony.org/. Group discounts ( 20+) 252/473-2127.

Friday-Sunday June 19-21, Tuesday-Sunday June 23-28, Tuesday-Sunday June 30 - July 5, Tuesday-Sunday July 7-12, Tuesday-Sunday July 14-19, Tuesday-Sunday July 21-26, Tuesday-Sunday July 28 - August 2, Tuesday-Sunday August 4-9, & Tuesday-Saturday August 11-15: Horn in the West: Daniel Boone Amphitheatre, Boone. 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. 8 p.m. Southern Appalachian Historical Association, Post Office Box 295, Boone. 828/264-2120 or http://www.horninthewest.com/.

Thursday-Sunday June 25-28, & Thursday-Saturday July 2-4: First for Freedom: 4-H Rural Life Center Amphitheatre, Halifax. Max 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. 7 p.m. except 2 p.m. Sunday, June 28, & around 8 p.m. Sunday, July 4 (prior to fireworks). Eastern Stage, Inc. 145111 NC Hwy. 903, Halifax. 800/522-4282 or 252/535-1687.

June 25 - August 22: Five productions at Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre, Snow Camp: for details, see separate festival tab.

Friday-Saturday June 26-27: The Promised Land: Judy Downey, playwright. This family musical is based on the true story of a North Carolina family and descendants as they struggled through the Revolutionary war and later sought religious freedom as they migrated with the Mormon Pioneers to the West. 8:30 p.m. Ormond Amphitheatre, Bath (Walk in the Light Productions, Inc., Bath). 252/923-5501 or http://www.baththeatre.org/.

Friday June 26 - Friday July 3: Moonshine and Thunder: The Junior Johnson Story, Karen Wheeling-Reynolds, playwright. Set in Wilkes county, once known as the moonshine capitol of the world, the drama tells the story of the early years of running ‘shine, racing in the mountains of NC, and its evolution to NASCAR. 8:30 p.m. Forest Edge Community Amphitheatre, Fort Hamby Park, 1534 S. Recreation Rd., Wilkesboro. Wilkes Playmakers Inc., Post Office Box 397, North Wilkesboro. 336/838-7529 or http://www.wilkesplaymakers.com/.

Sunday July 5, Tuesday-Sunday July 7-12, & Tuesday-Saturday July 14-18: Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend, 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”). 8:30 p.m. Forest Edge Community Amphitheatre, Fort Hamby Park, 1534 S. Recreation Rd., Wilkesboro. Wilkes Playmakers Inc., Post Office Box 397, North Wilkesboro. 336/838-7529 or http://www.wilkesplaymakers.com/.

Friday-Saturday July 10-11, Friday-Saturday, July 17-18, Friday-Saturday July 24-25, Friday-Saturday July 31 - August 1, Friday-Saturday August 7-8, & Friday-Saturday August 14-15: From this Day Forward: Old Colony Amphitheatre, Valdese. Fred B. Cranford, playwright. This is the 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. 8 p.m. Old Colony Players, Post Office Box 112, Valdese. 888/825-3373, 828/874-0176, or http://www.oldcolonyplayers.com/ [inactive 2/10].

Friday-Sunday July 10-12, Friday-Sunday July 17-19, Friday-Saturday July 24-25: Cymbeline, William Shakespeare, playwright. 7:30 p.m. Most productions are free. Montford Park Players, 246 Cumberland Ave., Asheville. 828/254-5146 or http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/.

Saturday July 11 & Saturday July 18: Jesus Christ Superstar: Tim Rice, playwright; Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer. A rock musical that dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. 8 p.m. Roanoke Island Historical Association Inc., 1409 National Park Rd., Manteo. 252/473-3414 http://www.thelostcolony.org/. Group discounts ( 20+) 252/473-2127.

Thursday-Sunday July 16-19, & Thursday-Sunday July 23-26: Amistad Saga: Reflections: African American Cultural Complex, Raleigh. 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. 8 p.m. African American Cultural Complex, 119 Sunnybrook Rd., Raleigh. 919/250-9336, group rates 919/212-3598, or http://www.aaccmuseum.org/amistad.html#amistad.

Thursday-Saturday July 30 - August 1, Thursday August 6, & Saturday August 8: Miracle on the Mountain: The Crossnore School, Crossnore. Bill Wilson, playwright. Miracle on the Mountain 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, pregnancy, and truancy and brought medical care, roads, electricity and education to the region. (Now the school is a home for children who have been abused or neglected.) 8 p.m. The Crossnore School, Post Office Box 249, Crossnore. 828/733-4305 or http://www.crossnoreschool.org/.

Friday-Sunday July 31 - August 2, Friday-Sunday August 7-9, Friday-Sunday August 14-16, Friday-Sunday August 21-23: The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare, playwright. 7:30 p.m. Most productions are free. Montford Park Players, 246 Cumberland Ave., Asheville. 828/254-5146 or http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/.

Wednesday-Sunday August 5-9, & Saturday-Sunday August 15-16: Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare, playright: 8 p.m. except Wednesday & Thursday @ 7:30p & Sundays at 3p. Charlotte Shakespeare Festival. McGlohon Theatre, Charlotte. Collaborative Arts Theatre, Post Office Box 32875, Charlotte. 704/625-1288 or http://www.charlotteshakespeare.com/.

Saturday August 8 & Saturday August 15: Oklahoma!: Oscar Hammerstein II, Playwright; Richard Rodgers, composer. 8 p.m. Roanoke Island Historical Association Inc., 1409 National Park Rd., Manteo. 252/473-3414 http://www.thelostcolony.org/. Group discounts ( 20+) 252/473-2127.

Friday August 28 - Sunday September 5: The Asheville Shakesperience, William Shakespeare, playwright. 7:30 p.m. Most productions are free. Montford Park Players, 246 Cumberland Ave., Asheville. 828/254-5146 or http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/.

Friday-Sunday September 11-13, Friday-Sunday September 18-30, Friday-Sunday September 25-27, & Friday-Sunday October 2-4: Macbeth, William Shakespeare, playwright. 7:30 p.m. Most productions are free. Montford Park Players, 246 Cumberland Ave., Asheville. 828/254-5146 or http://www.montfordparkplayers.org/.

*CVNC contributor and Triangle Theater Review editor Robert W. McDowell thanks Robert Franklin Fox, d
irector of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Outdoor Drama, & CVNC's executive editor, for their help in updating this annual preview.