As you are traveling around the Mid-Atlantic and nearby states this summer, don’t forget you can see live productions “under the stars” at a number of outdoor theaters in the region.
Now in its 55th season, “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” continues at the June Tolliver Playhouse in Big Stone Gap, Va., through Aug. 19. Designated Virginia’s official outdoor drama in 1994, the play is based on John Fox Jr.’s best-selling romance novel about life in the Appalachian mountains.
Published in 1908, the book was adapted to the Broadway stage in 1912 and then hit the silver screen in 1914, followed by three more films in 1916, 1923, and 1936. The last film was directed by Henry Hathaway and featured Sylvia Sidney, Henry Fonda, and Fred MacMurray. The story revolves around a long-running feud between two local families that comes to a climax when outsider John Hale enters the scene about the time that coal is becoming a big industry in Big Stone Gap, the author’s hometown.
While attending the play, you might also visit Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Center to learn more about the area’s history.
A family feud is at the center of the outdoor drama “Hatfields and McCoys,” to be performed by Theatre West Virginia in Beaver, W.Va., July 5 to 8 and 11 to 15. The feud started during the Civil War in 1863 and continued through 1891 on the Tug Fork of Big Sandy River between West Virginia and Kentucky.
A joint family reunion between the Hatfields and the McCoys took place in 2000 and an official truce was declared in 2003. A 500-mile ATV trail system was created in Mingo County, W.Va., in 2000. The feud also was the subject of a TV mini-series that aired on the History Channel in 2012, and “Hatfields and
McCoys” is one of the most popular dinner shows in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., today.
North Carolina is home to several outdoor dramas.
“The Lost Colony” at Manteo, which continues through Aug. 22, is the nation’s longest-running symphonic outdoor drama. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green and now in its 81st season, the drama tells the story of the first English settlers who came to the Outer Banks in 1587 and later disappeared without a trace—a mystery that is still unsolved today.
Featuring a cast of more than 100 and exquisite costumes, the play
won the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre award in 2013. Actor Andy Griffith played the role of Sir Walter Raleigh and two-time Olympian Floyd “Chunk” Simmons played Chief Wanchese during the 1950s. Nearby Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, identified as the original site of the Lost Colony, features an array of artifacts excavated at the site.
“Unto These Hills” continues through Aug. 18 in Cherokee, located in the Great Smoky Mountains, the homeland of the Eastern Band of the Cherokees. The story focuses of the Cherokees’ first encounter with the Spanish in 1540 through their removal and forced march along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. The Oconaluftee Indian Village nearby offers a glimpse into the life of the Cherokees during those times.
“Horn in the West,” the country’s oldest Revolutionary War drama, runs through Aug. 11 in the town of Boone. The central character is explorer Daniel Boone, a leader in the fight for independence against the British. Visitors get a glimpse of early life in the Appalachian Mountains at the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum nearby.
“First for Freedom” in Halifax is presented every July 4th. The town was the first in the American Colonies to make a formal declaration of independence from England.
“Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend,” explores the story of Laura Foster’s murder more than 100 years ago. Though Tom Dooley, whose real name was Dula, was hanged for the murder, there is doubt about whether he commited the crime. The murder was the subject of an old folk song made popular by the Kingston Trio during the late 1950s. The Old Wilkes County Jail, where he was imprisoned, is located next to the Wilkes Heritage Museum on the Wilkesboro town square.
You can see plays at the Barter Theatre, the state theatre of Virginia in Abingdon, year-round, but the experience is especially enjoyable during the summer. Here’s what’s on tap:
■ The Gilliam Stage — “Sister Act” through Aug. 11; “Steel Magnolias,” through Aug. 11; “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” Aug. 17–Sept. 8
■ Barter Stage II — “The Lemonade Stand,” through Aug. 11; “Madame Buttermilk,” through Aug. 19
■ The Barter Players — “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” through July 14; “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” July 17–Aug. 4
■ The Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights, Aug. 21–26, Stacey Isom Campbell’s new play “Dough and Cookies” Philadelphia celebrates July 4th America’s birthday will be celebrated during Philadelphia’s Wawa Welcome Festival, which runs through July 4. Touting the theme of “Welcoming the World with Love,” the festival encompass free, all-ages, patriotic events in Center City, the Historic District, the city’s diverse neighborhoods, and Valley Forge, and concludes with 12 hours of non-stop commemorations, celebrations, and spectacular fireworks over the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
More details are available at visitphilly.com.
Carol Timblin welcomes travel news at email@example.com.
Outdoor Theater Links
Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Center
Theatre West Virginia
Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud
The Lost Colony
Visit Cherokee, N.C.
Blue Moon Productions
Horn in the West
Wilkes Heritage Museum