Debuted in 1937 during the Great Depression, The Lost Colony was the first of America's outdoor historical dramas. Establishing a unique theatrical tradition that has continued to expand and thrive across the nation, The Lost Colony was originally commissioned by residents of Roanoke Island, North Carolina as a year-long 350th Anniversary celebration of the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born on American soil. Paul Green (17 March 1894 - 4 May 1981), a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a native of North Carolina, was selected for the project.
The great success of The Lost Colony, which continues today, set the stage for a new and distinctively American dramatic form, the outdoor historical drama or symphonic drama. These original plays are based on historic events and are performed in large, rustic amphitheaters, usually situated in scenic settings where the actual events portrayed by the drama originally unfolded. Other production elements frequently incorporated in the genre include period music and dance, elaborate sets and costuming, special effects, live animals and ambitious battle scenes.
In 1963, The Institute of Outdoor Drama, a public service agency in the College of Arts and Sciences of The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, was established to provide leadership in fostering artistic and managerial excellence of the outdoor drama movement. According to the Institute, there are over 30 outdoor historical dramas performed throughout the United States, attracting approximately 2.5 million attendees annually.
Providing entertainment with great educational value, the following outdoor historical dramas in the Southeast offer summer vacationers an array of memorable experiences with appeal for most ages. Due to extreme popularity, advance tickets are usually required and always recommended.
North Carolina Outdoor Historical Dramas
- First for Freedom - Halifax, North Carolina
- From This Day Forward - Valdese, North Carolina
- Horn in the West - Boone, North Carolina
- The Lost Colony - Manteo, North Carolina
- The Sword of Peace / Pathway to Freedom - Snow Camp, North Carolina
- Unto These Hills - Cherokee, North Carolina
- Dock Brown: Legend of an Outlaw / Down in Hoodoo Holler - Caneyville, Kentucky
- Stephen Foster - The Musical - Bardstown, Kentucky
- The Aracoma Story - Logan, West Virginia
- Hatfields and McCoys / Honey in the Rock - Beckley, West Virginia
- Trail of the Lonesome Pine - Big Stone Gap, Virginia
- The Miracle Worker - Tuscumbia, Alabama
- Liberty: The Saga of Sycamore Shoals - Elizabethton, Tennessee