After a year off, the first since World War II, The Lost Colony makes a comeback this summer, but with some significant cultural changes.
Perhaps the biggest? The nation’s longest-running outdoor drama, which helped launch the career of TV star Andy Griffith, will no longer hire white actors to play Native American roles. The play, for those who may not know, is an outdoor drama imagining the events leading up to the disappearance of the first English colony on Roanoke Island.
The change in casting comes after a Change.org campaign by an East Carolina University student who argued it was wrong to bronze the faces of white actors, likening it to “blackface.”
“This company has done this for decades,” petitioner Adam Griffin wrote. “The money generated from these ongoing productions does not benefit Native American communities, nor is it affiliated, nor approved by any Native American communities. Promotional usage of the production, and fundraisers, often includes visuals of Native Americans, ‘quotes’ from Native Americans, all for the benefit of continuing to produce their shows with their agendas.”
The Roanoke Island Historical Association, which produces the The Lost Colony, this year 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.
Some on a local Facebook page called the move absurd, while others said it was about time.
“It is historical fiction. It is not an accurate representation. It is a play, a production, entertainment,” one woman wrote.
“I think making the production more authentic sounds good,” another wrote. “Looking forward to seeing it this summer.”