Sunday, September 22, 2013

On Roanoke Island, the Federal Theatre Lives On!

(Waterside Theatre, at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. Photo by Brent McKee.)

The Lost Colony, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Green (a native of North Carolina), has been playing since 1937, at Waterside Theatre in Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island. The theatre was originally constructed by the WPA and CCC, and some of the original performers of The Lost Colony were WPA actors. Author Susan Quinn wrote:

“One piece of live theatre survives from the days of the Federal Theatre Project. The Lost Colony…continues to draw large crowds to Roanoke Island in North Carolina every summer. Otherwise, the Federal Theatre Project lives on only in the archives and in the stories of those who took part” (from Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times, New York: Walker & Company, 2008).

(An engraving at Waterside Theatre, commemorating FDR's attendance at a 1937 showing of The Lost Colony. Photo by Brent McKee.)

Along with many other actors, Andy Griffith fine-tuned his acting skills at Waterside Theatre, playing parts in The Lost Colony (several years after the WPA era). Griffith was actually living in nearby Manteo, North Carolina when he passed away in 2012.

The Waterside Theatre is further proof of the enduring value of New Deal investments; further proof of the good work of unemployed Americans hired into the WPA and CCC.

If you want to know more about Waterside Theatre and The Lost Colony, visit

(Entrance sign to Forth Raleigh National Historic Site, highlighting The Lost Colony play. Photo by Brent McKee.)

 (At least one other Paul Green play was performed in the Federal Theatre--House of Connelly, a story about the dimming fortunes of a wealthy southern family. The poster above advertises a showing at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles, 1937. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

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