Ft. Raleigh National Park- Manteo, NC


The Lost Colony Tenure File

Director’s Notes

In 1937, in anticipation of the 350th anniversary of the Settlement of the colony, a group of business people from Eastern North Carolina approached Pulitzer-prize winning North Carolina playwright Paul Green to write a play to mark the event. Influenced by by folk dramas, Green created a unique format- an outdoor performance set to music, which he called a ‘symphonic drama.’ A special amphitheatre was constructed in Manteo and the play was first performed in July 4, 1937.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the production on August 18th of that year, the 350th anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare, John White’s granddaughter and the first English born person in the new world, and declared it a hit. Actors who performed at The Lost Colony and later went on to have successful careers include: Andy Griffith (1974-1953), Terrence Mann (1970-1977) and as director (2001-2004), and Lynn Redgrave, who play Queen Elizabeth I to open the 2006 season.

The history of The Lost Colony affords a great deal of research. Discovereies are excavated on the site regularly and scholarship revealing new theories to solve the 400 year-old mystery are published from time to time.

My research has inspired and shaped my interpretation of the text in a very significant way. Learning more about how other directors have stages the show was very necessary to preserve tradition and appreciate just how others had achieved it. The stage is 60 feet wide with two side stages, traditionaly called, “Indian Stage,” and the “Queen’s Stage,” and each have their own compositional issues to overcome. Learning where and why particular scenes are staged was my first task.

By contrast to many other shows, the script was final and locked. However, there was one directorial idea that has sinced proved to be a trademark of the past five years. The role of the Historian, a storyteller who forwards the narrative with facts, was not a particularly inspiring role. It had been interpreted in many different ways over the years. From an archaeologist, to a priest, to a Native American, this character had never realy settled into a tradition.

After my research and discoveries I decided to present an idea that the Historian was in fact Sir Walter Raleigh in later life. The premise was that the story begins a few days before Raleigh’s execution in the Tower of London and he retells the trials and tribulations of the colonists, and experiences both enthusiasm and guilt as he reminisces about the adventure.

It occurred to my that we might never know that this is indeed the same actor if it could be played convincingly and then later in the second act we he would transform, in full view, from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Historian.

I ran the idea part William Ivey Long, the production designer, because it would involve building costumes that could allow for such a theatrical moment and we decided to do it. It was a coup de theatre. I am proud to say the very few people made the connection that it was the same actor until it was revealed. This device highly enriched the production.

The Lost Colony and all those that keep this outdoor drama alive are very dear to my creative soul. My five years as the Director shaped me as an artist.

-Robert Richmond


Director: Robert Richmond

Production Designer: William Ivey Long

Sound Designer: Michael Rasbury

Lighting Design: Jim Hunter

Photo Credit: Duane Cochran & William Ivey Long