By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on May 28, 2022
A much improved The Lost Colony took the stage at Waterside Theater last night for the opening of the 85th year of the nation’s oldest outdoor drama.
Far more focused on story than last year’s version, the 2022 production reincorporated significant portions of Paul Green’s original narrative that seem to have been jettisoned last season. When first performed in 1937, Green’s script pushed the envelope of what an audience would accept on stage, especially the interracial relationship between Old Tom and Agona. By 21st century standards, though, significant portions of it come across as racist and condescending to Native American culture.
Yet Green was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright with a keen understanding of storytelling, pacing and character development. And those are the elements that have been reintroduced into the current production.
Last year’s opening sequence was an overlong Native American dance that seemed to do little to advance the story. This year, in contrast, the opening dance sequence is brief, but far better integrated into the plot, seeming to lead to the first meeting of the English, led by John White (Outer Banks actor Stuart Parks reprising his role from last year) and King Wingina (Cam Bryant), the leader of the local Algonquin people.
One of the improvements this year is creating a real persona for Wingina. As performed by Bryant, he is a king who wants what is best for his people and sees the English as both benefit and potential curse.
He sends back to England two young Native Americans, Manteo (Nakya Leviner) and Wanchese (Noah Sage Anselmo) who are introduced to Queen Elizabeth I (Georgia Fender). When the two of them return with Ralph Lane in 1586, they have come to very different conclusion about the English.
One of the more powerful scenes in the play is Manteo and Wanchese standing on each side of Wingina arguing their point. Manteo tells his King that the English have wonders and powers like nothing he has seen, and they need to align themselves with them. Wanchese is equally adamant that the English are filthy and want only their land, and that Ralph Lane is dangerous and cannot be trusted.
As played by Cameron Lane, in a brief appearance in the court of the Queen, Lane comes across as somewhat foppish and weak. It is unclear why that decision was made by either Director Jeff Whiting or the actor; historically, Captain Lane was a military man with a reputation from for direct and violent action over negotiation.
That continued on Roanoke Island when men under his command hunted down and killed Wingina, his death in the play marked by an owl puppet crossing the stage.
In an important improvement over last year’s production, the role of the owl as a symbol of death in the local Indigenous Peoples’ culture was explained. Last year, if it was, the explanation was not clear and was confusing.
Another very significant improvement is again highlighting the role of Sir Walter Raleigh ((Timothy Jones) in the creation of a colony on Roanoke Island. In Green’s original script, Raleigh was one of the principal actors, performed at one point by Andy Griffith, among others.
With Raleigh back in the play, one of the most powerful and heart wrenching scenes could again be staged.
John White returns to England for supplies for the colony, leaving soon after his granddaughter is born. He lands in England as the country is about to confront the might of Spain and the Spanish Armada. The Queen decrees that every ship is needed for the defense of the country, and no ship can leave.
Knowing the colony is doomed without supplies, Raleigh and White plead with their queen to let them send just two small ships. At one point White—very effectively performed by Parks — is on his knees, begging the Queen to send supplies because it is his granddaughter whose life hangs in the balance.
She doesn’t, of course, and what ultimately happened to the colony remains a much-pursued question.
That is only one of the elements from past productions that was reincorporated into what is on stage this year.
In the past, there was an extraordinary sword fight between Simon Fernando (Benedetto Robinson) and John Borden (Will Dusek). That’s back and spectacular.
The street dancing is also back and with the Troubadour Dancer Imani Joseph taking the lead, it is rousing and wonderful.
There is also an exquisite duet performed by John Borden and Eleanor Dare (Olivia Schaperjohn). Both did a very good job in their roles and the duet added a nice touch to their relationship. Not to diminish Dusek’s voice, which is quite good, but Schaperjohn’s contralto is exquisite.
Perhaps most importantly, Old Tom (Aaron Coleman) is back. To a significant degree, the arc of the story is told through his transformation from town drunk to the point when he gives voice to his poignant and crucial speech as he stands guard on the parapet of the colonists’ stockade.
“Roanoke, O’ Roanoke, Thou hast made a man of me,” he says.
The most significant new feature this year was the introduction of 3D imaging on stage. Sometimes it worked and worked very well. Other times, not so much.
The crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by the colonists was especially successful with the imagery of waves and water covering the stage. Sitting at center stage it was very effective. However some audience members sitting along the sides felt it was hard to tell what was being depicted on stage.
Where the 3D did not seem to work was showing the Spanish Armada. Was it supposed to be an aerial view showing ships upon the ocean? A ship under sail? It never seemed to clearly resolve itself into an image that could be defined.
This year’s production under the direction of Jeff Whiting certainly accomplished some things that needed to happen if The Lost Colony is to survive. The play moves along much faster than in years past; the introduction of new technology was desperately needed. Is it better than the play in years past? The jury is still out on that, and it may take another visit to parse how effective some of the changes are.
Nonetheless, it is a play worth checking out while spending some time under the stars.
The Lost Colony Opens Friday, May 27 and runs through August 20. The show begins at 8:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Tickets start at $25. Dare Nights for the 2022 season will be held on June 3rd, June 10th and June 17th. Dare Nights admission is free to Dare and Currituck residents with donations to the local food pantries. For more information visit www.thelostcolony.org.
NOTICE TO CONTRACTORS: BIDDER PRE-QUALIFICATION REQUEST: Barnhill Contracting has been selected as the Construction Manager at Risk by Dare County and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade and specialty contractors to submit bids for furnishing Labor, Material, Equipment, and Other for the new “Dare County – EMS 1 / Fire Station 14” (KDH) located in Kill Devil Hills, NC. PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The scope of the project encompasses approximately 36,000 sqft of new construction and 18,000 sqft of demolition on a 3.5-acre site located at the 1630 N Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC. The project includes masonry bearing walls supporting a Standing Seam Metal Roof over Light Gauge Trusses housing administrative, living and support spaces along with 6 apparatus bays. Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages: BP750 – Turnkey Siding. Additional Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business participation is encouraged. Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals to Meredith Terrell by December 2, 2022, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (Office Location – 4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612). PREQUALIFICATION FORMS CAN BE OBTAINED from BuildingConnected through this Invite under the “File” tab or from BuildingConnected link on the Barnhill, Bidding Opportunities website at app.buildingconnected.com/ by selecting “Dare County – EMS 1 / Fire Station 14 – Prequalification”, or by contacting Meredith Terrell email@example.com (919-604-2367). Please submit completed prequalification forms A and B along with all required supporting documentation and with All Bid Packages you are Prequalified for Checked. Form B must be submitted for this project. Form A is good for 1-Year and if you have submitted one to Barnhill within the last year, it should still be valid. If you are unsure, please verify this with Meredith. Target Bid Date: January 2023