The Lost Colony general manager John Ancona leaving after one season

John Ancona [submitted photo]

The Lost Colony outdoor drama general manager John Ancona is departing after just one season at the post for a role with a company in the Charlotte-area.

Ancona made the announcement in a letter posted at on Thursday.

A replacement for Ancona ahead of the nation’s longest running outdoor symphonic drama’s 85th season has not been announced.

The change comes just over a month after a report from a select panel analyzed challenges and addressed complaints from cast, crew and even alumni during the 2021 season.

After a year off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season missed since World War II, The Lost Colony made a comeback in summer 2021 with significant cultural changes.

Perhaps the biggest? The nation’s longest-running outdoor drama, which helped launch the career of TV star Andy Griffith, no longer hire white actors to play Native American roles.

The Roanoke Island Historical Association, which produces the The Lost Colony, reached out to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina for artistic guidance and in search of indigenous actors. The association board also brought on as associate choreographer Jerad E. Todacheenie, a Native American dancer and choreographer originally from Shiprock, New Mexico on the Navajo Reservation.

The 84th season ran relatively smoothly, but the final week had to be cancelled due to a cluster of coronavirus cases among the cast and crew and other factors.

In late fall, the association’s board received a report from the Community Relations Committee that found “operational and communications problems that must be remedied next season”, said concerns and criticisms about creative aspects of the show should be communicated to Director Jeff Whiting for consideration ahead of the 2022 production, while also finding some allegations were unfounded.

The committee also said the show’s leadership, including Ancona, Whiting and RIHA chairman Kevin Bradley “acted appropriately under difficult circumstances. The board can be proud of their performance.”

Prior to his hiring by RIHA in December 2020, Ancona served as Director of Entertainment and Events for Herschend Family Entertainment, where he produced, operated and managed festival and live entertainment product and personnel for Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

Prior to his 13 year run at HFE, Ancona worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines where he managed the daily operations of 12 ships worldwide.

Ancona’s letter announcing his departure:

I have had the great privilege of serving as the General Manager for the Roanoke Island Historical Association and The Lost Colony for the last 15 months.

I am deeply proud of the accomplishments this organization has achieved and the successes we’ve been able to celebrate during my tenure. I humbly recognize that I stand on the shoulders of so many talented leaders and those who have served the organization for the last 84 years.

I have made a very difficult decision to accept a new General Manager position for a company that is considerably closer in proximity to Charlotte NC.

I have a home and partner of 22 years there and this move will allow us the opportunity to spend more time together and less time on the road between Charlotte and the Outer Banks.

I have so enjoyed my journey these last 15 months with getting to know the extraordinary board of directors, administrative and artistic staff and the community partners who have dedicated their time and talents to RIHA and The Lost Colony.

I am profoundly grateful to each and every one of you for your unconditional guidance and support and I especially appreciate your passion and commitment to continue to raise our own bar to deliver a first-class product to our guests each season.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who continue to support and preserve this historical production and I look forward to hearing about all of the great things yet to come in the seasons ahead.

I will continue to provide the necessary support to the staff and to the organization throughout the transition.

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Sam Walker was news director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3 from August 2011 to March 2022.