NC First Lady Kristin Cooper makes cameo performance in The Lost Colony
Published 3:46 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2023
The Lost Colony play featured a special cameo performance last Tuesday, August 1, 2023 from North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper.
Mrs. Cooper played a lady in waiting in one brief scene, receiving from the hand of the Queen the “treasures of the new world” (i.e., potatoes and corn) from Sir Walter Raleigh.
She was in full costume and jewelry for the performance, wearing what she said was a “really cool” fitted maroon dress with forest green satin trim in classic 16th century English style “that makes me look really thin in the waist.”
Though Cooper said her theater experience is not extensive, she has performed with her children in shows in Raleigh, and she is currently rehearsing for a play in September. “When I got a chance to do this I thought it would be a lot of fun,” she said in a personal interview with The Coastland Times.
“It’s such a unique and interesting part of our state’s history and our heritage, and I think that its people should know their history,” Cooper said.
“This is one of the country’s big mysteries. It’s got everything in this story and it’s a great spectacle. It’s a beautiful day, there’s a wonderful sea breeze, and I think it’s just a great family experience,” she added.
Prior to the show, Cooper attended a reception in her honor in the breezeway at The Waterside Theatre at Fort Raleigh National Park with the board of directors, The Lost Colony staff and members of the media.
“I’m so proud to get to be able to be a tiny part of [the show] for just one night. And for what you all have done – some of you for years – to support this, keep on doing what you’re doing. I’m just really proud of all y’all and I hope I don’t screw it up,” she said, drawing laughter from the group.
“Stunt casting is always fun and the governor’s wife was a real treat,” said executive director Chuck Still. “She knows her theatre and she’s the opposite of aloof. It also ups the cast’s game. It’s different. It’s energizing. It was a great night.”
The 86th season of The Lost Colony, a symphonic drama adapted from Paul Green’s book, is directed and choreographed by Jeff Whiting, with music and orchestrations by Sam Davis.
It is the story of the first English child born in the New World, Virginia Dare, and both the anticipation and struggle of the early colonists to survive in unknown lands with unknown people.
The play delves into the social and political world of England in the 1580s with its grand court and opulent clothing, yet teetering on the brink of war with Spain. Queen Elizabeth 1 is played marvelously by Libby Otos.
After a scouting expedition to Roanoke, the Queen gives permission to Sir Walter Raleigh to send a group of settlers, including women and children, under the leadership of Ralph Lane and John White to set up a colony for England in this wild and wonderful new land.
The colonists are met originally with friendship and support from the Native Americans, particularly from Manteo, but strained communication, the death of King Wingina, and hunger across both parties leave the relationships splintered.
Meanwhile, John White returns to England seeking aid for the colony, only to be denied by the Queen, who cannot spare any ships during a conflict with Spain.
The colony struggles with starvation and sickness, their supplies low and their clothing ragged. Yet they sing Christmas carols on a cold snowy evening and hope for the return of White. On the edge of extinction, the colonists depart with Manteo to another region where there is game, carving the famous “CRO” symbol onto a tree, for White to find three years later upon his eventual return to the island.
Still said the technical changes to the show this year are subtle but include additional lighting, revised and augmented projections, and a more defined naval battle projection.
“If it were me, I would see it every year to compare and contrast performances, but I can understand if you only come every couple of years. For locals, I hope it’s something you’re proud of – it’s your story – and I hope you bring any guests you might have to show it off,” Still said when asked why someone who is familiar with the show should see it again.
“It is the granddaddy of outdoor theatre and an award-winning legend,” he said.
Some scenes are shorter, like the sword fight in Plymouth and the ocean crossing at the end of Act 1, while some scenes have returned, like Eleanor’s lullaby.
Much of the cast is similar but there are new actors playing Eleanor Dare, John Borden and Old Tom.
Old Tom, who shows the most personal growth throughout the show, delivers his touching speech as he stands guard to protect the colony: “I became a somebody … Roanoke, oh Roanoke, thou hast made a man of me.”
The outdoor setting on the Roanoke Sound is stunning but it presents significant challenges. Though the cast will still perform in rain (in June, they did the entire second act in a steady shower), but if lightning comes within six miles of the theater, they have to break for 15 minutes.
Wind, too, can be a problem, Still said. “We don’t move the ship if the wind is above 25 miles an hour, and if it’s 12 miles an hour, we make sure the Queen has escorts when she comes through the Chapel doors. In that dress, she’s like a big ole sail and the wind can blow her right down the steps.”
But the biggest difficulty this year has been the heat.
“Last week, we were having cast go down to heat exhaustion every night,” Still said. “One night an understudy had to take over for Manteo after the big battle. They have ice packs, giant fans, Gatorade, water, etc. It still can put them down … It is really hard to wear those costumes in this heat on that sand night after night. It would kill me,” he added.
But of course, the show must go on and it does, flawlessly, with the audience never knowing the difference.
On August 18, the birthday of Virginia Dare, The Lost Colony will continue the tradition of using real babies during the performance in place of the prop baby.
The season will run through August 26. Ticketing information can be found at thelostcolony.org.