The Lost Colony colonists celebrate the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World.

Will the fate of the Lost Colony ever be known? 

Probably not, which may be why the play that tells its story is so compelling.

North Carolina native Paul Green wrote the play 80 years ago for the Roanoke Island Historical Association—which was a fancy name for a group of Manteo business men who were just trying to find a way to get people to visit the Outer Banks in the depths of the Great Depression.

The play exceeded beyond all expectation, attaching 50,000 people that first year including FDR. The following year 100,000 people showed up and The Lost Colony has continued to be performed every year since except for four years during WWII. 

Green created an historic pageant and for the part he got the history right. Ralph Lane, who led the first expedition to Roanoke Island is depicted in the play as an impatient, violent man—and that’s what he was, his actions creating a distrust and hatred for the English that contributed significantly to the failure of the colony.

There is the decision by Queen Elizabeth I to keep all English vessels in port to help fight the Spanish Armada. Included in those ships that could not leave were the hoped for resupply the Roanoke Colony desperately needed.

There are. of course, some liberties. John Borden, who becomes the leader of the colony when despair is at its footstep, is name that was at the colony, but there is no record that he assumed a leadership role. 

There are a few other things as well, but that’s just quibbling about an evening of great theater under the stars.

The play has survived largely intact for 80 years for a reason and it is a visit and a place in Outer Banks traditions.

Remember, this is outdoor theater. Bug repellant is a good idea. And take a light jacket or sweater just in case.