Jesse David Wood Houston
By Tim Stevens
MANTEO — Sometimes,as the sun disappears below the horizon,Ira David Wood III gazes at his actors backstage. He is pleased with what he sees.
In one of his first meetings with the cast of the 76th production of The Lost Colony, Wood stressed to his performers some young,some old,some veterans,more than 60 making their first appearance in Americas oldest outdoor drama that they were walking on hallowed ground.
The remains of some of the colonists who came to the New World in the failed English colony of 1587 may be buried in the ground below the theater where the actors try to portray the colonists hopes,deeds,emotions and spirit for audiences 426 years later.
It is a special place, said Wood,who returned to the production as director this season more than 40 years after he played Old Tom,a drunken beggar in England who becomes a new man in the New World.
The colonists all died,or at least they all vanished,creating one of North Carolinas most enduring mysteries.
Recalling long-ago conversations with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green,Wood has restored some elements in the symphonic drama that other directors had changed over the years. The result is a refreshed production,with new relevance and excitement.
Through the years,you change a little here and a little there and eventually youve changed a lot, said Charles Massey,the shows marketing director.David is a North Carolinian. He has been in the show. He knows what this show means to the people of this state. This isnt Broadway. This isnt a Broadway show. This is The Lost Colony.
The Lost Colony is the first of several outdoor dramas created by Green,a University of North Carolina drama professor who won the nations top prize for drama in 1927. Inspired by historic events,Greens dramas are presented with pageantry and music,usually at a site where the events took place.
Wood,known to thousands of Triangle patrons for his work at Theatre in the Park in Raleigh and especially for his annual version of A Christmas Carol, has worked theatrical magic in Manteo,according to production designer William Ivey Long.
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