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June 23, 2004 -- No. 333
Renovations in Boone, Falstaff and new ‘Amistad’
in Raleigh highlight current outdoor drama season
CHAPEL HILL – This summer, 10 North Carolina theaters will offer eight historical dramas and two Shakespeare festivals, according to the Institute of Outdoor Drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The historical plays are based on significant events and performed in amphitheaters on or near sites where those events happened. The nation’s first outdoor drama, "The Lost Colony" in Manteo, was written by the late UNC drama professor Paul Green and opened in 1937.
The institute, a public service of the university, seeks to foster artistic and managerial excellence in outdoor drama and expand the genre through training, research and advice. It also provides information about the dramas to the public and gauges the performance and economic impact of the outdoor drama movement.
Below are just a few examples of the many story ideas offered by outdoor dramas, of national, statewide and local interest. Also below is an alphabetical list of North Carolina's outdoor dramas, with plots, places, dates and contact information. For more information and a list of all outdoor dramas nationwide, visit the institute’s Web site, www.unc.edu/depts/outdoor, or call the institute at 919-962-1328. Its online directory includes downloadable color photos, locator maps for the 10 North Carolina dramas and more than 100 theaters nationwide, as well as plot summaries, performance dates, theater addresses and phone numbers.
North Carolina’s Shakespeare festivals include one of the nation’s first, and the first in North Carolina, put on by the Montford Park Players in Asheville since 1973. Reporters looking into why outdoor drama in general, or Shakespeare festivals in particular, thrives each summer across the country can get a lively analysis and great quotes from Montford’s founder and chair emerita, Hazel Robinson. She also could spice up any story about tourism in the North Carolina mountains.
Shakespeare endures, Robinson said, "because everybody knows somebody like those people." In "Love’s Labors Lost," which opens on July 9 and is Montford’s second show this summer, "there’s a pompous school teacher, a country girl who’s being courted by several men and manages to have what she wants rather than what they want, and a sassy servant" -- to name a few.
Nor does Shakespearean English confuse modern playgoers, Robinson said. "If you see live people interacting with those lines and the emotions that go with them, everybody knows what’s going on," she said. "You just have to make sure your actors know what they’re saying and the way they’re saying it. If they do, it comes across.
"You can get hooked on it. I must tell you, it is addictive."
Through June 27, the players are presenting "Henry IV, Part II," the sequel to part one, which they staged last year. A favorite character from last year will be back, Robinson said.
"Falstaff is a great crowd pleaser, an expansive, rowdy, bawdy con man," she said. "He’s a fat scoundrel and everybody likes him."
Robinson advised audiences to bring lawn chairs or blankets to the terraced amphitheater that bears her name. "The terraces are faced with boards, but you don’t want to sit on those, they get hard." Also, bring a jacket. Typically, the weather is warm when audiences arrive but a chill falls over the mountains later in the play.
Shakespeare outdoors has its problems – "mosquitoes and rain, for instance," said Robinson. But it offers a much bigger area and more freedom in staging. "Our rain policy is that we play through a sprinkle, pause for a shower, and if it looks like an all-night sizzle-sozzler, we say ‘Go home and come back tomorrow.’ That’s the beauty of playing for free."
Robinson can be reached at 828-254-4540.
Financial and facility woes earlier this year caused a rumor that "Horn in the West" would not open this year – wrong again. With a new board and interim general manager Michael Scialabba (pronounced "SEA-ah-LAH-bah") at the helm, the 55-year-old drama opened as scheduled on Friday (June 19).
The city of Boone and Watauga County funded a $61,000 renovation for the theater in the heart of town, much of which is complete for this season, Scialabba said. The facility has a new stage and lighting system, renovated restrooms and repaired stairs leading to the amphitheater, with railings just added. "This is the biggest change anyone will have seen in 50 years," Scialabba said.
He has resurrected the play’s original, 1951 script, inserted the best of playwright Kermit Hunter’s revisions over the years and put in new music and choreography.
"We have a phenomenal show," he said. "Coming to the theater this year will be a completely different experience. It’s my third year directing the show, and this is the best cast I’ve ever had."
Previous audience members may remember Scialabba in the role of the young hero, Jack Stuart, in 1998. He can be reached at 828-264-2120.
"Amistad Saga: Reflections," about the 1839 mutiny on a slave ship and subsequent U.S. Supreme court case, has new material and new faces this summer, said producer Elliott "E.B." Palmer.
"Our new director, Brian Davis, produced the TV miniseries ‘Everything is Copacetic’ on City TV last year," Palmer said. "He has changed the stage adaptation, and his re-write is a bit different. People will be seeing something different than in years past. He’s very creative and enthusiastic. We look for an outstanding production."
Davis has brought some of his "Copacetic" cast members to perform in "Amistad" this year, said Palmer; two of them are being considered for ABC shows.
The play, now in its sixth season, is based on the novel of the same title but includes the company’s own research on historical events, Palmer said. He called the play the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States. Although some of the subject matter is grim, the play is suitable for children, with no brutality enacted, he said. Palmer can be reached at 919-250-9336.
"Amistad Saga: Reflections," African American Cultural Complex, Raleigh A mutiny aboard a slave ship and a resulting U.S. Supreme Court case, with speeches, song and dance. Thursdays-Sundays, July 29-Aug. 8; 919-250-9336, http://www.aaccmuseum.org, 119 Sunnybrook Road, Raleigh, NC 27610.
"First for Freedom," Halifax County Historic Courthouse. Max Williams, playwright. Events leading to the signing on April 12, 1776, of the Halifax Resolves, the first formal declaration of independence from Great Britain by an American colony. Friday-Sunday, July 2-4; 252-583-2261, Eastern Stage Inc., 14511 Highway 903, Halifax, NC 27839.
"From This Day Forward," Old Colony Amphitheatre, Valdese. Fred Cranford, playwright. Story of the Waldenses, a religious sect that arose in southeast France in the 1100s, their struggle to survive persecution in their homeland and their eventual arrival in North Carolina to establish a colony in 1893 at Valdese. Includes music and dance. Fridays-Saturdays, July 9-Aug. 14; 828-874-0176. Old Colony Players, P.O. Box 112, Valdese, NC 28690. http://www.oldcolonyplayers.com
"Horn in the West," Hickory Ridge Homestead, Boone. Kermit Hunter, playwright; Peter MacBeth, composer. In North Carolina's southern Appalachians during the American Revolution, frontiersman Daniel Boone and his settlers struggle against the British militia. Museum and homestead on site. Tuesdays-Sundays, June 18 -Aug. 24. Box office, 1-888-825-6747; management, 828-264-2120. Southern Appalachian Historical Association, P.O. Box 295, Boone, NC 28607. http://www.horninthewest.com
"The Lost Colony," Waterside Theatre, Manteo. Paul Green, playwright. Original symphonic drama, in its 67th year, on the mysterious disappearance of the first English colony to settle in America, after its arrival on Roanoke Island in 1587. Mondays-Saturdays, May 31-Aug. 20. Box office 800-488-5012, management 252-473-2127. Roanoke Island Historical Association Inc., 1409 National Park Road, Manteo, NC 27954. http://www.thelostcolony.org
Montford Park Players, Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, Asheville, Fridays-Sundays. "Henry IV, Part II," a history play, through June 27; "Love’s Labors Lost," a comedy, July 9-Aug.1; 828-254-4540. Montford Park Players, 246 Cumberland Ave., Asheville, NC 28801 http://www.montfordparkplayers.org
Shakespeare on the Green, Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, Wilmington. "Twelfth Night" Fridays-Sundays through June 27, Thursdays June 17, 24; 919-762-6393, email@example.com 208 N. 17th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401.
"The Sword of Peace," "Pathway to Freedom," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Beauty and the Beast," Snow Camp Historic Amphitheatre, Snow Camp. "Sword," William Hardy, playwright: During the Revolution, Cane Creek Society of Friends defends belief in non-violence; "Pathway," Mark Sumner, playwright: Slavery opponents and free blacks help hundreds of escaped slaves flee north before the Civil War. The two plays alternate nights Thursdays-Saturdays, July 1 -Aug. 14. The musical "Annie Get Your Gun" will be performed nightly Aug. 17-21. All night shows will start at 8 p.m. A children’s show, "Beauty and the Beast," will play at 10 a.m. Saturdays July 10-Aug. 14. "Ye Old Country Kitchen," on the grounds, opens 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Box office, 800-726-5115; management, 336-376-6948. Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre, P.O. Box 535, Snow Camp, NC 27349-0535. http://www.snowcampdrama.com.
"Unto These Hills," Mountainside Theatre, Cherokee. Kermit Hunter, playwright; Jack F. Kilpatrick and McCrae Hardy, composers. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee from arrival of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540 to removal to Oklahoma on the tragic trail of tears. Cherokee leaders Junaluska, Tsali and Sequoyah fight for the tribe's survival. Mondays-Saturdays, June 10-Aug. 21. Box office: toll-free, 1-866-554-4557; management: 828-497-2111. Cherokee Historical Association, P.O. Box 398, Cherokee, NC 28719. http://www.untothesehills.com.
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Contact: Scott Parker, 919-962-1328, firstname.lastname@example.org
News Services contacts: Print, L.J. Toler (after June 24), 919-962-8589; broadcast, Karen Moon, 919-962-8595; main number 919-962-2091.