Behind the Scenes: The Lost Colony

Now Playing at Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island

The Lost Colony is a must-see production that runs during summer evenings at Waterside Theatre, an outdoor soundfront theater on Roanoke Island. The production celebrates the history of the first English colony on Roanoke Island and is the longest-running outdoor symphonic drama in the nation. Before the 2021 season, we joined Director Jeff Whiting for a behind-the-scenes look at The Lost Colony

The Settlement at Roanoke

The Lost Colony tells the story of the first English settlement in the New World, which is one of America’s oldest unsolved mysteries. The settlers arrived and established Roanoke in 1587. When supplies ran low, the governor of the new colony sailed back to England to replenish the colony’s stock. Governor John White arrived as a war was breaking out between Spain and England. Queen Elizabeth I ordered every available ship to assist against the Spanish Armada. White was not able to return to Roanoke until 1590. When he arrived, there was no trace of the colony, with little information on what may have happened. Many have investigated the disappearance of the colony in the centuries since, with no definitive answers until researchers had a big break in the mystery in 2020. 

Old Tom and Agona in the Fisnet Scene, Aycock Brown Collection
Old Tom and Agona in the Fisnet Scene, Aycock Brown Collection

The Lost Colony, Refreshed for the 2021 Season

Paul Green wrote the production, telling the story of the colonists while weaving in drama, song, and dance. The show takes place at the Waterside Theatre, which was constructed on the very spot where the colonists settled. The show arrived on the stage in 1937 and has a rich history. The production was slated to run through the end of the summer of 1937. However, national interest in the show was piqued when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the audience on August 18, 1937. Since its debut season in 1937, the show has taken the stage every summer, except for four years during World War II, as the stage lights would have attracted the attention of the German U-boats that were just offshore. The show took another season off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The infamous Andy Griffith had a role in the production from 1947 until 1953, and local legend Cora Mae Basnight played the role of Agona for 27 years. 

After taking the 2020 season off due to challenges caused by the pandemic, The Lost Colony returned to the stage in 2021 for its 84th season. Jeff Whiting joined the production as this year’s director. Jeff has worked on multiple Broadway productions in New York, and he brings a new perspective to the original symphonic drama written by Paul Green. In addition to enhanced visual choreography, acclaimed Broadway composer Sam Davis has also joined the production. The Lost Colony has been reimagined for this season, as Jeff put great effort into casting and preserving the authenticity of the time period. 

How to see The Lost Colony

In 2024, The Lost Colony will take the stage at 8:30 pm, Monday through Friday, from May 30th through Saturday, August 24th. The show runs for approximately two hours, with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets can be purchased in advance. For 2024, adult tickets range from $25 to $40, and kids tickets for ages 6 to 12 are 50% off of the adult ticket price. Kids 5 and under are free. On Monday nights in 2024, kids 12 and under are free, thanks to a sponsorship by Kitty Hawk Kites. Discounts are available for seniors, military, students, and groups of 15 or more. We recommend grabbing dinner at Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills on your way to the 87th season of The Lost Colony

Courtney Wisecarver

Courtney Wisecarver






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