The Lost Colony to no longer include ‘redface’ actors 

By on April 12, 2021

(The Lost Colony)

Other changes coming in Native American aspect of play

Kevin Bradley, chairman of the Roanoke Island Historical Association (RIHA), recalls that the organization would receive occasional complaints about its use of non-Native Americans to play Native-American roles in The Lost Colony play every year. But for a number of reasons, including the challenge of finding enough Native-Americans to fill out the cast, the practice had continued.

Then, two things happened to change that. One, according to Bradley, was the cancellation of last year’s play during the COVID pandemic, which allowed for some longer-range thinking and “a chance to really do a gut check.” The second was a petition on that started last year and was initiated by Adam Griffin. The headline was blunt: “Stop Performing Racist, Redface Performances of ‘The Lost Colony’ in Manteo NC.”

A dialogue ensued, both with Griffin and Native American tribes, and as a result, there will be numerous changes when the curtain rises on the new season of the Lost Colony on May 28. One of them will be the hiring of about 20 Native Americans to fill out those roles this year.

When he first got wind of the Griffin petition, Bradley acknowledges that, “I remember thinking, ‘this is tough.’ [But] you have to ask this question about any criticism, ‘is it true?’ And much of what he wrote is true.’’

The petition, which currently has about 680 signers, made the charge that, “The Lost Colony, along with those above productions, are offensive, inaccurate, and perpetuate a false narrative of what our country’s history looks like.”

More specifically, Griffin asserted that the Lost Colony has, since its debut in 1937, “depicted Native Americans, with the casting of non-Native Americans. They take it a step further, in ‘bronzing/painting’ the actors so that they appear ‘like-Native Americans.’ This is a form of blackface, coined as ‘redface.’”

That led us to “open a dialogue with Adam,” says Bradley. “A lot of people say he called us out. I don’t think so. I really think he called us in.”

There was also an increasing dialogue with Harvey Godwin — Chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina who is also now on the RIHA Board of Directors — that changed some thinking about the play.

“He was wonderful. He was gracious,” says Bradley. “After a few conversations with Harvey, we realized we had some blind spots” in the show. “The bigger change for us has been the ongoing collaboration.”

Asked if, other than the use of Native American actors, playgoers will notice differences in the 2021 version of the Lost Colony, Bradley does not hesitate. “I think in the first ten seconds of the show, the audience will know there’s a difference,” he declares. “I mean immediately.”

“We’re not shifting the focus off the colonists,” he adds. “As it relates to the Native American component, that’s where the changes will really take place.”





  • Just sayin

    Mark, there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing native americans in to the production. That’s not the point at least I was trying to make. It’s a play, people dress up for the roles. Is it wrong to send an Italian actor in to play an engishman? The problem will be that they will all of the sudden be the only ones “allowed” to fill the roles. Would Elizabeth Warren be allowed to play a role with 1/2064 native american? Or do the actors have to be full blood? Doesn’t this just open a door to production problems with finding enough actors? The article even mentions that. Its pretend!

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:06 am
  • Sandflea

    Cancel culture was me being taught thru school that the whites moved west to settle the land and “tame” the native “savages”. Turns out the whites moved west to steal the land and slaughter the native Indians.
    I’m guessing the vast majority of people doesn’t give two cents about this play.
    Last I checked, it’s a private entity and they can present it how they choose. Let the free market sort it out.

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:13 am
  • Charlie

    I think it’s time we start a petition for the the Broadway performance cats. People need to stop playing cats and put all the ally cats in there spots. 🙄

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:17 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Charlie, the problem is that alley cats are notoriously bad at taking direction.

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 9:58 am
  • Pedro Aragosta

    Can members of the Lumbee tribe (aka Croatan Indians), many of whom are blonde and blue-eyed, apply? And should we insist that only royals can play Queen Elizabeth?

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:20 am
  • Mark A Williamson

    What is next, no multi racial casting on Broadway? Like the actor playing Hamilton? It was a big hit I think, so is that wrong now also?

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:21 am
  • surf123

    @Just sayin…the end of acting as we know it is coming to an end. Of late several actors have pulled out of shows/movies because they did not fit the role 100% and were attacked. A good number have been LGBTQ roles that were not being played by a member of the community. Have not seen any complaints about a story be reimagined with a different race as the cast or a specific character, but it is coming.

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:29 am
  • Ghost Crab

    Why can’t they just go to Manteo High School and hire some Redskins?

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 8:24 am
  • andy

    It is not pick and choose. If you want to be fair choose settlers that have european heritage only. I enjoy the show every year. Chief Manteo was so good at his performance you would not think once he is not Native American!

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 8:42 am
  • Mary

    Why do you think Crayola Crayons makes the Colors of the World edition? It’s just a play!

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 9:04 am
  • Bob

    Making changes that support the wishes of actual native American folks I think is a great idea, kudos for sitting down and listening to them and their concerns.

    My question though, is how much of it was an issue for them? It seems like most times, it is white people with nothing better to do that get everyone all worked up on behalf of another group that may not care. How many of the 680 signers were Native American? Or even non-white?

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 10:04 am

    A couple of summers ago my visiting granddaughter, whose very close friend was Native American, was deeply offended by the production and went out to sit in the car to wait for the rest of us. She made me see the play in a different light. I can’t wait to see the new production. Let’s get the history right!

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 1:13 pm
  • Deleted

    Why do all of my comments get deleted, Mark?

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 4:54 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Resend your last one and I will look and tell you why

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 5:04 pm
  • Iron Eyes Cody

    Alright, Mark. Here it is . . . Remember the poignant, anti-littering campaign from the 1970’s with the crying “Indian”, Iron Eyes Cody. As it turns out ol’ Iron Eyes was actually an Italian-American. Does that mean it’s OK for me to start littering again since the very reason that I stopped as a kid was based on a hateful lie?

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 5:10 pm
  • Question Nothing

    I remember the bumper stickers that I used to see plastered all over VW Micro Buses back in the 1970’s that said, “Question EVERYTHING.” Today, the new Micro Bus slogan is “Question NOTHING . . . Move Along . . . Nothing to See Here.”

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 5:37 pm
  • Tara

    As an annual visitor to the Outer Banks, I am extremely happy that changes making the play more accurate and sensitive to Native Americans are being made. The last time I saw the production a few years ago, I was very offended at the depiction of the Indians (and I am white). It’s long past time for this overhaul. Thank you for taking the time to do it!

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:05 pm
  • blue devil bruce

    In years past I have seen blacks portray colonists and native Americans. I guess they will now be demoted to stage hand or gopher. Or will they?

    Tuesday, Apr 13 @ 7:23 pm
  • Onevoice

    Can someone tell me how many native Americans have shown up in the past to try out for the role of playing an Indian in the lost colony?
    RIHA is no different then any other organization and I support there right to make the choices they see fit but let us not forget the value to all the kids who want to be in this play. This is theater something the board has complicated in the past.

    Wednesday, Apr 14 @ 7:44 am
  • Lucas


    I have enjoyed reading the Outer Banks Voice for years. I recognize that the media (in any form) IS biased and does not always report facts without inserting opinion. I am disappointed that you would participate in the comments by posting questions that clearly shows bias. We are living in a society that is weak and too easily offended. We are in a time where nobody wants to follow the rules, however people are asking for more rules. The left want to erase and re-write history. Right, wrong or indifferent, everyone seems to have or want to support a cause these days without knowing the facts or what is even driving the cause. I am a white male, I go to work every day and earn my paycheck. I am not wealthy and likely wont ever be wealthy. I don’t condone racism and never will. I know that we are ALL (white, black & brown) created in the image of God. All of that being said, history is just that, history. Portray it as it was (good, bad and ugly) and don’t mess with it. I have no problem with Native Americans playing the roles of Native Americans but I do have a problem with saying it is not ok for a non Native American to paint their face (as an actor/actress) if there is a need for that person to put on a performance that portrays history. We should all be learning REAL history and we should value that history. We should learn from that history and we should treat all races with love and compassion. We should never elevate a particular race just because they have been mistreated in the past. We make it right by treating the with love and compassion now, not elevating them.

    Wednesday, Apr 14 @ 8:32 am
  • tac

    So I guess this means they will be shipping over British actors and actresses for those roles?

    Thursday, Apr 15 @ 8:07 pm