Remembering the Lost Colony

If you’re lucky enough to have seen The Lost Colony at least once, chances are you have some memory of the first time you experienced the show – whether you happened to be five years old at the time, 95, or somewhere in between.

That goes for us here at Three Dog Ink, too. Talking about the 80th anniversary, we all could recall something about watching the show for the first time – from fireworks and the smell of insect repellant to battle scenes, tomahawks, the Queen’s gown, and Indians dancing around the fire.

As The Lost Colony ushers in eight decades tonight, we thought it would be a good time to share some fond memories about the country’s longest-running outdoor drama. And as many of us will again this summer settle into our chairs at Waterside Theatre and listen to the story of “America’s Greatest Unsolved Mystery” unfold, we will get to relive history all over again.

“I remember seeing the theater and waterside setting right as I walked in,” says Three Dog Ink Media’s graphic designer, Kevin Groat. “There’s no question that it simply adds to the excitement and anticipation – no matter what age you are.”

Groat recalls the excitement of seeing the characters emerge unexpectedly from around the audience. “Even though I was in one of the furthest seats and I couldn’t see the detail in the costumes, the constant energy in every scene made up for it.”

Publisher Mary Ann Williams, remembers taking her neighbor’s young daughter to the show in the mid-1970s. “We just loved it, and she especially loved the fireworks,” Williams remembers. “When we took her to see the Fourth of July fireworks in Corolla later that summer, the first thing she asked was, “Where are all the Indians?”

Sales Associate Marie Walker recalls first going to the play when her two children were young. “My kids loved it – and the fireworks – when they first saw the play.” Her daughter, Melissa, interned in the costume department while home for college one year, sewing and repairing the Indians’ outfits.

As for me, I was about 7 when I first saw The Lost Colony while vacationing with my family in the little red A-Frame in Colington Harbour where we stayed for a week each summer.

Aside from what seemed like a cross-country trip over to Roanoke Island, I remember seeing Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship glide past behind the stage and really believing it was his ship arriving in the New World. I remember the Indian dances, the battle scenes, costumes and body paint… and also being scared of Queen Elizabeth.

But most of all, I remember the story about how the only clue left behind was the word “Croatoan” carved in a tree. And as I drifted off to sleep in the back of a hot station wagon on the way back to the habour, I wondered what could have happened to those colonists – and thought maybe while I was on vacation, I might find a clue somewhere in the woods.

Now years later, as an Outer Banks resident and writer, I’ve returned to watch the show several times, and have taken my children to experience it as well. I’ve interviewed cast members and staff, shared their fascinating stories and gone on behind-the-scenes tours.

There’s always something new to experience at The Lost Colony, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. But there’s something about that first trip to Waterside Theatre that leaves an impression, no matter how many times you return. We hope that everyone who visits the Outer Banks gets a chance to have that experience.

And as the show opens tonight, we at Three Dog Ink wish The Lost Colony a happy anniversary and the best season yet!

Michelle Wagner
Michelle Wagner is the editor at Three Dog Ink and has been living and writing on the Outer Banks for more than 15 years. Contact Michelle

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