When The Lost Colony first hit the stage in 1937 the nation was mired in the Great Depression, the Outer Banks was a forgotten piece of sand along the North Carolina coast and it was an open question as to whether or not anyone would show up.
As it turns out they did—a lot of people did. Something like 50,000, which given the economic climate of the time and what passed for a transportation network to Roanoke Island was really remarkable.
Even President Roosevelt made the trip, and for a man whose legs had been ravaged by polio, taking two ferry rides and enduring some truly bad roads, that was quite the feat.
But Paul Green’s drama sounded a note of hope at a time of national despair. Yes, the story focusses on the hardships and tragedy of the Roanoke Colony, but it is also about courage and faithfulness; Chief Manteo is a heroic figure who stands by his sworn word to the people of the colony. And ultimately it ends on a note of hope as the colonists defeated but unbowed walk off into the wilderness to seek a new home.
When Green wrote the play, he envisioned it as a pageant on a grand scale and it achieved that in 1937 and it is a remarkable production to see.
The Lost Colony opens on May 27 and runs through August 20.