Thousands of company members have brought the story of America’s first attempted English settlement to life since The Lost Colonyopened in 1937, but no one has told the behind-the-scenes story of the cast and crew – until now.
Next month, Coquina Press will launch Backstage at The Lost Colonywith a celebration and book signing May 26 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the theatre’s home in Manteo, N.C. It is the first book to cover the show from the perspective of the dancers, singers, actors, costumers and technicians who bring Playwright Paul Green’s enduring outdoor drama to life on summer nights.
In his debut book, author Dwayne Walls Jr. covers the finely-tuned production from rehearsals to closing night, proving what audiences don’t see at The Lost Colonyis sometimes the best part of the show: massive set pieces moved by hand as scenes unfold; costume changes that take actors from body paint to courtly costumes in a matter of minutes; and pyrotechnic tricks to safely set fire to the “burning girl” for the dramatic battle scene.
“Our intent was not to publish a historical account of the production. Rather, we wanted to offer readers a fresh look at a legend in American theater, and all that goes into staging a show of The Lost Colony’s magnitude,” said Publisher Barbara Leary.
As an alumnus of The Lost Colony, Walls is uniquely suited to tell the company’s story. He signed on with the show as a 19-year old actor technician in 1983, returning years later as its master carpenter. To research the book, Walls followed the cast and crew through the 80thanniversary season last summer. He observed rehearsals, interviewed cast and crew members and spent time backstage. The book incorporates interviews he conducted with key production staff members and alumni from years past, and it touches on the show’s founding and certain milestones. The author’s observations are supplemented by first-person stories from The Lost Colonyalumni and more than 100 photos by contributing photographers.
“When I was invited to write about life backstage at The Lost Colony, I jumped at the chance,” said Walls. “The show turned 80 years old last year, a milestone in any lifetime, so I thought the best way to tell the story of being backstage was to go to Roanoke Island and tell the story of the 2017 cast and crew.”
In addition to being a first book for Walls,Backstage at The Lost Colonyis the first title for Coquina Press. Leary, a former publicist for the show, had long wanted to produce a book about life backstage as a way to honor the dreams of the real-life colonists, the show’s creators and cast and crew members past and present.
“This book is a love letter to them all,” said Leary.
Copies of the book, both hardcover and paperback editions, will available for sale beginning in May at independent bookstores, specialty stores and other locations throughout the Outer Banks and at www.coquinapress.com. The May 26 launch celebration is free and open to the public.
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