This weekend is shaping up to be one of the most significant in the 76-year history of The Lost Colony.
The nations longest-running symphonic outdoor drama, which has been in production nearly every summer since 1937 on North Carolinas Outer Banks, will receive a Tony Award on Saturday.
The award the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre is given each year to individuals or organizations who have made major contributions to American theater but arent eligible for regular Tony Awards.
Charles Massey, the marketing director for The Lost Colony, emphasized that the award is a big deal for theater in this state.
We are the only theater group in North Carolina that has ever won such an honor, he said. The Tony is the Academy Award of theater, so were in good company. Its theater people saluting their own.
Massey said The Lost Colony executives submitted a petition for the award last year in the dramas 75th anniversary season, but the play was passed over. This year, it was selected along with four other winners.
The award will be received by The Lost Colony CEO Bill Coleman and board chairman Stephen B. King Sr. at a cocktail party Saturday in New York City at the same time that many technical awards for theater are given out. Major awards will be presented during Sunday nights televised Tony Awards show on CBS, a show that emphasizes acting awards and live performances.
The Lost Colony, produced by the Roanoke Island Historical Association, is one of the last remaining Federal Theater Projects from the WPA effort initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. Massey points to that historical significance as a big reason that The Lost Colony is receiving the Tony Honor.
It really has a place in history, not only as an arts event, but as arts and government working together, which is kind of rare, Massey said. And for the first couple of seasons, people were hired through the WPA Performance Program to come from New York and work with locals.
The Lost Colony was reviewed by The New York Times during its first summer, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt actually attended a performance a fact that folks affiliated with the play are still very proud of.
You know how hard it is to get here now; can you imagine what it was like in 37? Massey said. It was two ferries and a donkey, practically, to get here. Its called outer for a reason! So for the president to get here, thats a big deal!
His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, traveled to Manteo for a performance the following summer.
The play has a long history of using locals and college students to put on shows. Often, those students return to help with the play long after their careers are established elsewhere.
North Carolina native William Ivey Long serves as costume designer for The Lost Colony. Its the five-time Tony Award-winning costume designers 43rd season with the play Long started out at age 8 playing a colonist boy while his mother played Queen Elizabeth I and his father worked as a property master. Long who has Tonys for his work on Grey Gardens, The Producers, Hairspray, Crazy for You and Nine is nominated for another Tony this season for his costumes for Rodgers & Hammersteins Cinderella.
Another North Carolina native, Ira David Wood III, is directing this seasons production of The Lost Colony. Wood, executive director of Raleighs Theatre in the Park, first worked with the drama in 1968 when he played the role of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Massey says everyone associated with the play is excited about the Tony recognition. When the award is accepted, it is being accepted on behalf of everyone who has ever been a part of this organization, from 1937 to the present, Massey said. And not just the performers and the technicians, but the people who have supported us the loyal audience members who have kept us going. Because outdoor dramas everywhere are closing left and right, and we are still going.