August 24, 2019

The Lost Colony - One More Time

There is a bit of sacred ground on the north end of Roanoke Island…where, each summer for the last five years, we gather to share the story of The Lost Colony. 

Our first summer, Little Miss portrayed the roll of a child in the audience, chosen by the narrator to hear the story of the New World, and all that entailed. She walked with him each evening, looking on intently as he talked of Indian battles and the birth of the first English child. That year, Daddy took her to the theater often. On the evenings he would drop her off, I could count on my phone ringing shortly before showtime.

“Hey Bud…I’m gonna stay. I’ve just got to watch it one more time,” he would say.

I hear those words ring over and over today- one more time- when I think of all the things I should be doing at home- the ever-growing pile of laundry, the stalls that need to be cleaned, dinner that has been frozen or fast-food for too many nights in a row. But no…one more time, I remind myself- and I stay at Waterside Theater.

Rehearsal season #2 began just a few days after Daddy’s passing. We were all still numb. The words of sympathy and hugs were appreciated but I don’t know if they were truly absorbed. Little Miss was given the role of a young colonist, with lines. Mom and I shared a silent look- Daddy told every nurse in the hospital that his granddaughter was going to be returning for her second season, and would have lines- something we had no way of knowing at the time. (The scene was later cut and I never forgave that year’s production manager, who is likely being haunted by an angry farmer.)

Throughout that season and every season since, I have felt Daddy's presence so strong on the sound side, leaning against an old Oak tree, watching…one more time.

An interesting fact about, well, any theater production really- however it seems to ring truer in this particular show- is that you will never see the same show twice. The family of actors changes- some new, some returning…some returning in different roles. New Old Tom says this line quirkier than the last, this Eleanor Dare shoots a gun, this Queen is local, blond, and rides horses in her spare time…wait, what? (One can only wish.)

I’m a firm believer that God places people in our paths for specific reasons- to teach us, nurture us, learn from us, etc. In five seasons, I have watched Little Miss make some of her best friends in the sand at Waterside Theater. Unconventional, fly-across-the-country, strong, amazing friendships. From these actors, she has learned as many life-lessons as stage-lessons. She’s learned that life throws curves at us- you may start out in one role, and end up in another! She’s learned the importance of showing up. (And surprise-visits!) The talent and confidence she’s absorbed from her peers is invaluable. 

This season, she was cast (among other roles) as a dead body. She was delighted to add something new to her resume- a stage fall. Each night, she was painted green during intermission and placed behind a curtain where- when she hears her cue- she throws herself out onto the wooden stage. Once there, she has to lay perfectly still…because you know, she’s dead. (Mosquitos feasting…rain falling…perfectly still.)

“Mama, I think it makes sense for me to be in prologue…since I’m a dead body,” she told me, a few rehearsals in. (During prologue, spirits of the lost colonist appear behind the narrator.)

“That’s a great idea! Why don’t you mention it?” I encouraged.

Before I knew it, Little Miss’s twelve-year-old-self had shared her vision with her director- Ira David Wood, III. (Who is extremely-talented, and thankfully, humble.) He approved her request to be the first child-addition in the prologue.

A blink of an eye and some 70+ shows later, the cast of the 82nd season walked its final march. (The actual final show was cancelled due to a lightning storm that seemed to hover directly over the theater.) All the sweat and exhaustion of the summer faded in the moments we heard the announcement…one more time.

Little Miss hugged her cast-mates and shared tears. I watched as the adults were equally as sad as she, to say goodbye. 

As we walked in the rain to the parking lot, we were joined by our favorite narrator. He is one of those friends who is now family- one of those friends who just shows up, sharing encouragement, advice, and sarcasm. (And on Little Miss’s first ever audition, joined her onstage because she had an unexpected moment of stage-fright.) As the path ended, we said our good-byes, which since we all live here, was not as dreary as the weather.

“Love you!!” Little Miss said to him.

I started to cry. Little Miss only says those words if she feels it in her heart and equally, feels it from the other party.

We got in the truck and I tried my best to get my shit together. Little Miss was oblivious to the rain shower flying out of my eyeballs.

“He doesn’t look like Grandad…or sound like him. But…he is always proud of me…and it makes me want to make him proud, like grandad,” she said, looking out the window, almost talking to herself.

As we drove away from our 5th season…I thanked God for the paths he crossed with ours, for popcorn dinners that allowed me to watch one more time and for an unconventional closing night that gave us a few extra moments with our people

Thank you, The Lost Colony…you will be remembered. 

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