Guest Opinion: Passion, ability, stewardship/accountability and transparency

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2021

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By Jean Gearhart

Four cornerstones can make or break any business, but in the case of the longest running outdoor drama, The Lost Colony, there seems to be a lot of ineptness, failure of communication and differing view of purpose causing the production some major problems.

It would be helpful to point out that this production is not an entertainment vehicle. It is (or should be) an accurate account of the historical and unique event that took place here. It should be held on the site where it took place to embellish the audience’s investment in the story. That includes music and language from the time period as well as authentic dress and actions. The whole point is to give the audience a view of the events as clearly as possible. I first saw the production when I was eight years old. The lady playing the queen regally took my hand and said hello. Every child should be introduced to history at some point the same way. History becomes real. My middle name is also Elizabeth and it made such an impression on me, this drama has been in my heart ever since.

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Such a successful recounting should be based on a passion for the story, for the people it represents and for the site where it took place. Many people from Manteo and surrounding areas have invested in the play with many years of service. They had a passion to tell the story skillfully crafted by Pulitzer Prize author, Paul Green. When as a budding writer, I contacted Mr. Green about something I was writing and he and his wife both gave me support and encouragement. Such a gracious act on their part to a young author still in high school.

Ability can do little without a passion for the work. Think of doctors and teachers and anybody else without it. But passion for the work needs to come from the top down through the entire organization. Passion can be seen as support in all forms from decent housing to suitable costume. The Lost Colony has survived hurricane, fires, a murder and the passing of cast members due to the passion rising up out of the ashes to continue. Now some want to end it?

Ability is insured with clear job descriptions, duties and responsibilities written and signed with provisions for evaluation at the end of a season. That ensures accountability by making clear who is responsible for which duties and makes clear good stewardship in the use of funds, volunteers, grants and other financial patrons. To do so, transparency in records covering all areas needs to be easily accessed by the public. There should be no dark areas between the work, the evaluation, and the finance of the organization. There should be no one on the cast and crew who are afraid to voice legitimate concerns. They know far more than staff about the true situations before, during and after the season.

The alumni of the cast are a special, under-appreciated group who need their own non-threatening way to share their expertise. Without them, there would be no history of production. There is no valid reason for anyone to feel intimidated to express concerns or opinion. Passion again. Passion against changing, distorting, updating; because the passion for the story and people continue in hearts unwilling to watch further destruction and a slow, painful death.

The purpose of the Roanoke Island Historical Association is to commemorate the colonists who came here. It seems to be leaning more towards monetary rewards. You cannot keep changing the play to suit the audience. Historic facts do not change. The choice is to either commemorate with a passion or cave in to the tourists who prefer a more garish entertainment event with bells and whistles. The two cannot exist jointly.

“We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.” (Konstantin Josef Jireček) As a teacher and professor for many years, I also am reminded of the cast an crew of the drama.

Those people who truly love and cherish and have been devoted to the symphonic drama need to band together and act on the passion I know is still out there. Sit back and watch administrators without passion, job descriptions, evaluation and transparency ruin it all.

Otherwise, turn the whole area into a DareWood or a DareLand with all the rides, loud music and money-making endeavors. But then, someone needs to admit that the whole park is not located on the original site which is thousands of yards under the sound to the north and be done with it.

Jean Gearhart lives in Holden Beach and was a teacher/professor for over 30 years.