I have had the great privilege of serving as the General Manager for the Roanoke Island Historical Association and The Lost Colony for the last 15 months. I am deeply proud of the accomplishments this organization has achieved and the successes we’ve been able to celebrate during my tenure. I humbly recognize that I stand on the shoulders of so many talented leaders and those who have served the organization for the last 84 years. I have made a very difficult decision to accept a new General Manager position for a company that is considerably closer in proximity to Charlotte NC. I have a home and partner of 22 years there and this move will allow us the opportunity to spend more time together and less time on the road between Charlotte and the Outer Banks. I have so enjoyed my journey these last 15 months with getting to know the extraordinary board of directors, administrative and artistic staff and the community partners who have dedicated their time and talents to RIHA and The Lost Colony. I am profoundly grateful to each and every one of you for your unconditional guidance and support and I especially appreciate your passion and commitment to continue to raise our own bar to deliver a first-class product to our guests each season. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who continue to support and preserve this historical production and I look forward to hearing about all of the great things yet to come in the seasons ahead. I will continue to provide the necessary support to the staff and to the organization throughout the transition.
The Board of Directors of the Roanoke Island Historical Association received a report Saturday that “The Lost Colony enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in 2021, after enduring one of the most challenging times of its 84-year history.”
The report was presented at the board’s quarterly meeting in Manteo by the Community Relations Committee. The committee was appointed in September to review concerns about the 2021 show voiced by some cast and crew members and alumni. Its report to the board noted:
“By every external measure, the 2021 season was a success. Revenue, ticket sales and audience numbers hit levels not seen in nearly a decade. Average nightly attendance increased almost 20 percent – to 646 from 540 in 2019. The audience averaged over 600 per night for the first time since 2013. Gross ticket revenue increased 25 percent, despite fewer shows than 2019 due to weather and the Covid-related cancellation of the final week of the season.”
The committee hosted a two-hour Zoom meeting on September 24 to hear concerns from alumni representatives. The committee also received and reviewed more than 40 letters forwarded by the alumni expressing concerns. Its report has three primary findings:
“There were operational and communications problems that must be remedied next season.”
“There were a number of concerns and criticisms regarding creative aspects of the show. These should be communicated to the Director for his consideration in developing the 2022 production.”
“Some of the allegations were unfounded. They did not stand up to scrutiny.”
The report added, “We concluded that Chairman Kevin Bradley, General Manager John Ancona and Director Jeff Whiting acted appropriately under difficult circumstances. The board can be proud of their performance. They deserve our gratitude for their hard work and for making this season successful despite many challenges.”
The committee members were Chair Tess Judge of Kitty Hawk, Lucy Inman of Raleigh, Gary Pearce of Raleigh and Nags Head and David Woronoff of Pinehurst.
A full copy of the Community Relations Committee’s report is posted HERE.
The community of the Outer Banks lost a great friend, and The Lost Colony lost a legend, when Edward “Eddie” Greene made his Final March on November 29, 2021 at 96.
He exited peacefully and was surrounded by people who loved him, Helen Luciano, Gale Friedel, and Richard Lacerre.
But he was always going to exit surrounded by love.
It was my honor to serve as his video biographer, and now it’s my honor to tell you a little more more about this remarkable man.
Here’s what you know – Edward was in the The Lost Colony in 1953 and 1954. Colony choreographer John Lehman was in New York working on his own to improve as a choreographer and dancer, and was watching a class given by the great dancer Jose Limon. He spotted Edward and several other dancers he thought would be good for the show. He invited five dancers to have dinner with him and his wife, Charlotte. He pitched them on coming to Manteo , North Carolina to play in Paul Green’s The Lost Colony. All five accepted. Eddie said that “He described it perfectly, he didn’t oversell it, but he described the people, the show, the area – and I was hooked.” He stayed hooked. All five of the dancers came down, in Eddie’s car, with luggage and one cat, the first dancers hired from New York City to be in the show.
Think about that – Manhattan to Manteo, driving the two lane roads and taking the ferries, and ending up in Manteo at dawn, at Walker’s Diner, the only restaurant in town, in a converted, not full size school bus. And it was love at first sight. His only concern was first seeing the theatre, with seating for about 2,000. “I think we’ve been scammed! We’ll never see that many people in here!” But it was full for opening night.
Eddie became good friends with one Andrew Griffith: “Eddie was a dancer, and a good one,” he said in a speech honoring Edward in 2008. That wasn’t hot air. Andy and Edward shared a serious work ethic.
That strong work ethic caused him to stay in New York City after 1954, where he joined Equity, and began working as a professional dancer for nearly twenty years. One of the highlights was the National Broadway Tour of Damn Yankees, where he started as a swing dancer and ended up as a stage Manager and Dance Captain, casting and training replacement dancers during the year and a half tour. Bob Fosse was impressed enough to write a letter to Edward granting him permission to use his choreography in road shows and summer stock.
And Eddie never danced a lick before he was 21.
Eddie was born in New Rochelle, New York, May 18,1925. His parents, George and Ruth Greene, along with his grandmother, raised him and his brothers, Wick and Teddy, in a home over his parents’ business, The Greene Gallery. He was surrounded by love from the get-go.
Edward grew up during the Great Depression, and after graduating from New Rochelle High School, entered into the Navy in World War II, training as a medical corpsman on a landing craft for the invasion of Japan. While he was at sea, the war ended. He went west, ending up at UC Berkeley, intending to become a doctor. But then he went to see the San Francisco Ballet. It was transformative. “I decided I didn’t want to be a doctor, I wanted to be a dancer.” He joined the San Francisco School of Ballet within weeks.
And although he ended up as a high caliber dancer, that Outer Banks thing – well, you know. Between gigs, he’d visit as often as possible.
During the hiatuses between shows, he decorated showrooms for Christmas merchandise distributors, where buyers came to see and buy their holiday stock. He had a vision; he would bring sparkle to Manteo with a Christmas Shop and Art Gallery.
For his first business loan, he went to Ray White, a newly minted loan officer. He went without any paperwork. Ray believed in him, and convinced a sharp-eyed loan committee to believe, too. A half century friendship was born, and Eddie never looked back.
Edward met Richard Lacerre, artist, designer, and antique collector in New Jersey, who came down to Manteo with him; he became his business partner and five decade companion. Over the years, they made the Christmas Shop itself a work of art, eventually becoming a rambling showplace of fine antiques, enticing displays, entrancing sounds and smells, and – yes – sparkle. (I worked there, as a great many cast and crew did over the years. Sparkle went home with you and brightened up your shower.)
He never lost his connection with The Lost Colony, often serving on the board, selling tickets at his shops, and buying the color back cover of the Souvenir Program for decades.
Of course, he also had The Showplace Theatre at the Christmas Shop for several years, performing musicals with college students in the back parking lot. It wasn’t competing with the show – it complimented it and became another reason to visit Roanoke Island. At one time, The Christmas Shop paid as much in taxes to Manteo as all of the other businesses combined. So, naturally, when he was on the town board, with John Wilson as mayor and a great group of fellow commissioners, he worked hard for the revitalization of the downtown, thus increasing his competition.
Manteo needed a bookstore, he started it, along with multiple other businesses, including The Weeping Radish, in the process getting a law passed allowing micro-breweries in North Carolina. (You’re welcome.)
He established the New World Arts Festival, and with his friends David Stick, Andy Griffith, George Crocker and Ray White, he co-founded the Outer Banks Community Foundation, which has helped thousands of people in Dare County.
That is not half of his civic leadership. Governor Jim Hunt awarded him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest honor.
We were working on the print version of his biography when he made his exit, and I swear he did something interesting every day of his life. I was still learning more when he went.
Every year, during the first cast and crew meeting of The Lost Colony, Eddie would take time to speak to the company, and tell them that they would remember that summer for the rest of their lives. He was right. Eddie had remembered his first summer here, and the love, energy and vision it inspired made Dare County a better place. Manteo and Dare County loved him back, which is why his Final March is anything but final.
Della Basnight took her Final March on November 5th, 2021. It’s almost impossible to talk about The Lost Colony without bringing up Miss Della. Her laugh still resonates through the Waterside Theatre, and her smile made sunny days in Ft. Raleigh that much brighter. She was involved with The Lost Colony almost since birth. Her mother Cora Mae played Agona for 27 years, her brother Marc was in the show for several years, and most of her family have been involved with the production at certain times throughout the years.
Della was in the show 20 different seasons, and she played a variety of roles, including a Herald, a Colonist Woman, and, of course, Dame Coleman. She left quite an impression as the Dame, and entertained audiences in this role for 9 seasons, in 1971-75 and 2013-2016. Her commanding stage presence made Dame Coleman an icon, and the “Fishnet Scene” was always a highlight when Della slipped into the iconic white coif of Dame Coleman. Her influence on the character is irrefutable, and there’s still a little bit of Della in every Dame Coleman since her tenure. Her artistic achievements didn’t stop once she left the Waterside Theatre; she brought her charm with her to an episode of “Matlock” and “Smokey and the Bandit”.
Apart from her incredible performances on the sand, Miss Della embodied what made The Lost Colony such a special place for the people who walked across it’s stage: the idea that a Lost Colony company is a family. She made Roanoke Island feel like a home for so many. She would often take company members under her wing and would have them over or take them to Great Gut Deli in Wanchese. She organized a Karaoke Night for company members to blow off steam and to take a break from the hot summer heat. She showed company members that the beauty of the Outer Banks isn’t just the beaches and marshes, but the people who live here. She is the reason so many people look back on their summers here with such fondness. Just ask any company member that worked with Della about her, and they’ll tell you nothing but niceties.
Della personified what it means to be a “Keeper of the Dream”. Her dedication to The Lost Colony and community was evident. She will be dearly missed.
We were so sad to be unable to celebrate the 434th birthday of Virginia Dare this season due to COVID-19. The celebration of Virginia Dare’s birth is the very reason that The Lost Colony production was first put on in 1937, and to this day it is our most important performance of the year. It’s important not only for our company of actors and technicians, but it’s an incredibly special day for the people of Roanoke Island as well. Every year, Roanoke Island natives and tourists alike gather at the theatre on August 18th to see live babies portray Virginia Dare for that evening’s performance. It’s a tradition that dates back to 1937 and is one of the oldest traditions on the east coast. While we were unable to carry on this tradition in 2021, we still want to honor the families that were to solidify their place in history as a Virginia Dare Family. Below are portraits of the families and a brief questionnaire about their connection to The Lost Colony and to Roanoke Island.
The Meredith Family (Daughter Everly)
How long has your family been in the Outer Banks? The Midgette and Etheridge family have a long tradition living on the Outer Banks- both families were shipwrecked here many years ago!
What, in your opinion, makes Roanoke Island such a special place? Roanoke Island is a quaint island rich in history.
What does The Lost Colony mean to you and your family? Been a tradition since the 1921 film organized and produced by Roanoke Island natives and locals.
What do you think The Lost Colony means to the Outer Banks? The Lost colony is an important historical and cultural event that brings thousands of people to the Outer Banks.
Do you see a career in show business for your child? Would love to see her play a lead role in the Lost Colony in twenty years and enjoy all the cultural arts available to her
The Dayan Family (Daughter Tessa)
How long has your family been in the Outer Banks? Our family has been in the Outer Banks since the 1940s. Tessa’s great grandfather started a small business called Gray’s Gifts & Beach Accessories, now called Gray’s Family Department Store, that is still being run by her great aunt and great uncle today. Tessa’s grandfather grew up in the Outer Banks and brought her mother to visit here as a child. They have many cherished memories of playing on the beach and spending time in this beautiful area together. Tessa’s mother moved here after college and has been teaching at Nags Head Elementary School for 15 years. Tessa’s father was born in Argentina, grew up in South Florida, and moved to the Outer Banks in the 1990s. He has been a firefighter for Nags Head for 23 years.
What, in your opinion, makes Roanoke Island such a special place? In our opinion, Roanoke Island is a special place because of two things; the small town community feel and the rich historical legacy.
What does The Lost Colony mean to you and your family? The Lost Colony is special to our family because Tessa’s great great grandmother owned a little shop called The Doll House from about 1946-1965 that was located near the Waterside Theater. In this shop, she made and sold Lost Colony character dolls that were sold on location as well as shipped all over the world. Pictures of her doll house are attached. Also, interestly enough, Tessa’s great uncle (Walter Gray) was baptized in the little chapel of the Lost Colony. He is reportedly the first child baptized on that site since Virginia Dare herself.
What do you think The Lost Colony means to the Outer Banks? The Lost Colony is an integral part of the Outer Banks because it is a fascinating reenactment of a piece of our local, state, and American history. Visitors and locals alike enjoy being whisked away to a pivotal moment in our country’s history at the beautiful Waterside Theater.
Do you see a career in show business for your child? As Tessa’s parents and biggest champions, we will encourage her to follow her dreams and passions. If those dreams and passions lead her into a career in show business, we will wholeheartedly support her.
The Barker Family (Son Robert Nelson)
How long has your family been in the Outer Banks? Almost 35 years for Alex’s side of the family. Rob grew up just inland in Edenton NC and has been residing in Manteo full time since 2008. He spent many summers down here as a child.
What, in your opinion, makes Roanoke Island such a special place? Its quaintness, caring community, and rich history.
What does The Lost Colony mean to you and your family? Alex was in the colony for seven summers as a colonist & indian child. Nelson’s aunt, uncle and grandmother have all been members in the cast as well. In addition to the season commitments, both of Nelson’s big sisters, Hollowell and Mabel Gray, were Virginia Dare babies in 2016 and 2018. Rob remembers attending the show as a child with his family.
What do you think The Lost Colony means to the Outer Banks? The Outer Banks as a whole is rich in history. We believe that The Lost Colony sits at the foundation of that. Not only is it history for the nation, the actual history of the show is something of its own as well. It is deeply embedded in all of those who have been a part of the Lost Colony community for generations, and hopefully generations to come.
Do you see a career in show business for your child? We will support whatever any of our children aspire to do. If any of them are interested in a career in show business we will encourage them.
On this day in 1587, the first English child was born on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. The birth of Virginia Dare brought hope to the ill-fated Colony that their brave dreams would outlast their struggle.
Each year on Virginia’s birthday, The Lost Colony production features newborn babies from our local community. Unfortunately the 83rd Season was cancelled, so our alumni have created this special tribute in her honor! We wish to celebrate this day and recognize all the performers who have played the role of Virginia Dare or her mother Eleanor. Ye are remembered!
Concerns over COVID-19 shuttered this year’s production of “The Lost Colony.” What does that mean for the iconic play, and the people who love it?
COVID-19 has had the power to do what previously was only possible by a world war – shut down “The Lost Colony.”
This legendary outdoor symphonic drama commemorates the arrival, and consequent disappearance, of America’s first English colony on Roanoke Island in 1587. It was created in 1937 by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green, and with few exceptions, it has been running annually ever since.
“It has already left a hole in many people’s summers,” said Lance Culpepper, associate producer. “I’ve heard many comments such as, ‘I can’t imagine summer without it.’”
In April, the board of directors of the Roanoke Island Historical Association made the difficult decision to forego the 2020 season. While it is a devastating blow, Culpepper chooses to embrace the interruption as “a moment to breathe.”
“We have to consider what is most important for the organization in the long run,” said Culpepper, now in his 13th season with the production. So, the showrunners have decided to use this time to focus on how best to present the play when it returns in 2021. READ MORE
The Roanoke Island Historical Association condemns all acts of racism, discrimination and hatred in any manner. In the shadow of recent events, especially within our Black and Latino communities, we affirm that we are committed to working towards a more peaceful and just America. We are dedicated to listening and learning while caring for anyone who feels marginalized or discriminated against.
Here is a list RIHA’s commitments as we move forward:
RIHA will work to identify all potential blind spots that we may have with regards to unintended discriminatory practices – I will establish an oversight committee to hold us accountable.
I will host a Zoom Teleconference Meeting with all who wish to participate in order to continue to listen and process your perspectives on this important issue.
RIHA will work to establish dialogue with Native Americans to ensure we are depicting their ancestors in an honorable and respectable way in The Lost Colony production.
Like any organization, RIHAhas room to improve and we will. The Lost Colony is about the dream of freedom and equal rights for all; and RIHA supports that dream.
On behalf of the Roanoke Island Historical Association and our esteemed Alumni, I am pleased to share with you an amazing effort put forth by Lost Colony alumni Jimmie Lee Brooks and a team of artistic professionals from around the country.
During this difficult season when The Lost Colony was cancelled due to COVID 19, a team of passionate alumni rose up and produced a remarkable piece of art which symbolizes the hard work and dedication of those who have labored so hard to ensure the success of The Lost Colony over the past 83 years.
We hope you enjoy the magic of over 100 voices coming together to sing Final March. This is the powerful song performed by the colonists as they leave the fort to continue their struggle for survival. If you close your eyes – you will hear the Historian utter these beautiful and haunting words:
“In the cold hours before dawn, they began their march …..into the vast unknown”.
“Oh God that madest earth and sky, and hedged the seas around. Who that vast firmament on high, with golden stars hath bound. Oh God our Father Lord above, O bright immortal one…. Secure within thy mercy, we walk this death alone”
So even now, centuries later, we offer some whisper of their name with some mention and devotion to the dream that brought them here.
The dream still lives…and shall not die.
Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement. We hope you enjoy this beautiful gift from our Alumni.
Roanoke Island Historical Association
The Lost Colony Sews and Donates over 100 Medical Masks to Outer Banks Hospital
The Lost Colony “re-purposed” its costume shop and sewed 112 COVID-19 masks for frontline workers at The Outer Banks Hospital. The masks were sewn with fabric and supplies from The Lost Colony costume shop and delivered to the Hospital on Tuesday, May 6th. “Personal Protection Equipment is very important for our first responders and this was a good way to contribute to the effort to defeat COVID-19 while protecting our valued and beloved medical personnel” said Roanoke Historical Association Chairman, Kevin Bradley.
Community heroes Barbara Holton and Joan Brumbach sewed the masks based on an approved pattern. Barbara has a long history with the production as she is a former seamstress from The Lost Colony costume shop. She has made over 600 masks for the community this year and is a leader with many other community projects. Joan works closely with costuming for Elizabeth R & Company and her work on this project was greatly appreciated. “We are deeply grateful to our treasured volunteers for helping keep our community heroes safe” remarked Katie Stone, acting General Manager for RIHA.
Earlier this spring it was announced that the 2020 season of Paul Green’s The Lost Colony would be cancelled due to the pandemic. However, The Roanoke Island Historical Association will continue to find ways to serve its community as we all work towards a full recovery.
The Lost Colony Cancels 83rd Season in Response to COVID-19 Virus Concerns
The Roanoke Island Historical Association’s (RIHA) Board of Directors has cancelled its 83rd season of Paul Green’s The Lost Colony which is performed nightly each summer at Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island. This is the first cancelled season since World War II in 1944 and comes as a result of the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 virus. RIHA did not want to risk the safety of its ticket buyers, cast, crew, staff and volunteers. The RIHA Board of Directors stayed in close contact with county and state officials and determined this was the best course of action for everyone involved.
“Several times throughout our storied history, the community has rallied around The Lost Colony. Whether it was to help repair storm damage as a result of hurricanes or devastation caused by fire – every time the local community has stepped up and helped the Colony recover. We feel this is the appropriate time for The Lost Colony to take a step back and to return the favor and rally around the community that has done so much for us”, said RIHA Board Chair Kevin Bradley. “These are difficult times and that creates an environment where difficult decisions are required. And this certainly was a difficult decision for our Board of Directors to make – but I believe the correct one in light of what our community is facing”.
The Lost Colony outdoor drama is the “grandfather” of all outdoor dramas and is produced by the Roanoke Island Historical Association, a non-profit whose mission is to celebrate the history of the first English colonies on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, and to honor the founders of The Lost Colony symphonic drama through drama, education, and literature.
All tickets purchased for this season’s performances will be eligible for a full refund or can be applied to 2021 performances when the show re-opens to the public.
Q: What factors were considered in making the decision to cancel the 2020 production of The Lost Colony?
A: We monitored every local, state and federal agency for 45 days. We also spoke to past Board Chairs, former Board members, alumni, staff, and local businesses. We monitored other outdoor theaters as well. We have also been monitoring regional economies and saw that from the states where our sales come from – over 80% were under Shelter-In-Place or Stay At Home orders. This is not only a local decision, but one that considered the economic impact on our regional ticket buyers. There was overwhelming data and feedback pointing us in this direction.
Q: Why not delay the opening of the season so that at least a partial season could be produced?
A: Because there was no definitive indication that social restrictions will be lifted before June 1, the earliest we would be able to get the show up was 25-27 days after we received the go-ahead to do so. This would put us into late June or early July in terms of an opening and the economics begin to fall apart at this point. Reports are also circulating about colleges and universities adjusting start times, and since a large percentage of our cast is comprised of college students, we could be faced with a loss of our cast earlier than usual. We studied various timelines and scenarios and once we passed through certain tollgates relative to dates, it became more and more clear that a delayed opening was not going to be possible.
Q: Will The Lost Colony be able to survive a season without the production and resulting revenue?
A: This is an important question. The answer is yes but we will need to make major adjustments in order to survive. Like all businesses, we will need to make difficult decisions, but we have a plan that will allow us to be ready for the 2021 season.
Q: What happens for ticket buyers who purchased tickets for the 2020 production?
A: There will be two paths forward for ticket buyers. They can either get a full refund for tickets purchased for 2020 or we will honor their tickets for the 2021 season. More details will follow soon, but these are the two paths moving forward.
Q: Will the Roanoke Island Historical Association do any kind of production this summer if things clear out by July 1 or later?
A: It is possible that we will offer some kind of stage production for our local community. We are looking at several options and will communicate as we make decisions. We believe art feeds the soul and if we can help heal the community with a production, we will do our best to accommodate.
Q: What about The Lost Colony Culinary and Wine Festival scheduled for late September.
A: We feel we have more time to monitor the situation and make a decision later this summer. Our plans are to move forward unless we see data later this summer that would make the event unworkable.
Q: Are there plans to move forward with The Lost Colony in 2021?
A: Absolutely! We will leverage this down time to become stronger and better resourced as we move forward. Our goal will be to have the finest show ever staged at Waterside Theatre when the season opens next May.