The Lost Colony is America’s first mystery – the original “urban legend” – and this year marks the 75th anniversary of the longest running outdoor drama in the country!
To celebrate opening night this Friday, we wanted to share what we discovered in our exclusive search for The Lost Colony through American pop culture.
The story of the unexplained disappearance of the first English colonists to settle on Roanoke Island in 1587 was first made into a silent film in 1921. It was filmed entirely on the Outer Banks and it was the first movie ever produced in North Carolina.
Earlier 20th century, a group was formed to create a “pageant” of the story — an oratorio of the events using pantomime, music, and narration.
Due to the national financial depression, however, the plans remained dormant until Roanoke Island native and Dare County School Superintendent Mabel Evans Jones awakened interest when she conceived, wrote, produced, and starred in the 1921 film, directed by another NC native, Elizabeth Grimball.
The film was recently restored and plans are underway to eventually release it on DVD.
After her successful film, Jones and other community leaders then wanted to create a dramatic performance based on the film script.
On Virginia Dare’s birthday in 1925 a lost colony “pageant” was performed against the natural backdrop of the Roanoke Sound.
The event was very successful and as organizers sought to build on their achievement in their preparations for the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare’s birth, they approached North Carolina playwright Paul Green about developing a new pageant script.
The resulting play written by Green first opened on July 4, 1937. Though it was originally meant to run for only one season, The Lost Colony is now the longest running outdoor symphonic drama in America.
Actor and Manteo resident Andy Griffith is among the most famous alumni of the production.
The Lost Colony has been referenced in popular culture most recently in a 2011 episode of the television series American Horror Story.
The story also served as reference for a 2007 supernatural film called Lost Colony (aka “Wraiths of Roanoke”) that premiered on the SyFy network on October 13, 2007.
The Lost Colony can also be found in the 1998 film Phantoms, which was based on a 1983 novel of the same name written by Dean Koontz; and in the 2010 film Vanishing on 7th Street, directed by Brad Anderson and starring Hayden Christensen.
The first English child born in America, Virginia Dare was the main villain in the short-lived television show FreakyLinks. Inspired by The X-Files and The Blair Witch Project, the series premiered on the FOX network on October 6, 2000 and followed a young man who took over his twin brother’s paranormal Web site, Freakylinks, after his death. It was later found that his brother’s death was related to his investigations into the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.
It was implied that Virginia Dare was a demon who destroyed the colonists, either directly or indirectly; however, the show was canceled before the end of the first season, and the mystery was never resolved.
The final dress rehearsal is a traditional open invitation exclusively for Dare County residents to get an early preview of the latest production, kown affectionately as Dare Night.
This year’s Dare Night is Thursday, May 31st, with free admission for those local residents who bring at least two canned or dry goods that help replenish Outer Banks food pantries.
A family-friendly backstage tour of the production is available as added option this season, beginning at 7:30pm.
The theatre opens for seating at 8 and showtime each night is 8:30pm.