Petition leads to change in who plays Native American characters in ‘Lost Colony’

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MANTEO, N.C. (WNCT) — For more than 80 years, people have come from across the country to see “The Lost Colony” play. Now, a new act is in the works in the production’s storied history.

For the past 84 years, over 1,000 people sit each night in the outdoor theater on Roanoke Island. They’re here to see the story of the Lost Colony.

“There’s always an evolution, you have to keep it fresh, people know the story, they know the ending so you have to try and surprise them in other ways,” said Kevin Bradley, chairman of the Roanoke Island Historical Association.

Bradley said the play is a pillar of theater in North Carolina. Then, he saw a petition calling for the entire production to shut down.

“It was shocking, for someone to be calling for our demise, to shut down ‘The Lost Colony’ … I think at first glance you might go ‘this is just the cancel culture doing their thing coming after us’,” Bradley said.

The person who created the petition is Adam Griffin, an actor, Eastern North Carolina native and former East Carolina University student.

“I mean, you should never paint your skin and adorn yourself with costumes no matter what the reasoning is behind it, there’s no excuse for it,” Griffin said.

He started the petition after learning the production was using red face, darkening or bronzing white actors’ skin to play Native American characters.

“There’s a real problem in the arts of that happening with misrepresentation of culture and people speaking for cultures that are not theirs,” Griffin said.

Bradley called Griffin and realized his production had a major blind spot.

“Ultimately, the decision we made was in order to protect and honor Native American culture and their faith,” Bradley said.

In the end, the production team decided to stop casting white actors to play Native Americans in the play. The company has hired 20 Native Americans to play those characters and invited Lumbee Tribe representatives to be part of the conversation.

“There’s a really neat opportunity here to do some great things and be a great example for the world to see how we can solve problems and come together and just talk and not yell at each other and really try to figure out how we can get better,” Bradley said.

Opening night for “The Lost Colony” play is set for May 28.

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