'Lost Colony' celebrates 75th anniversary on Roanoke Island
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MANTEO, N.C. -- "The coat of arms, for the city of Raleigh in the new world!”
That proclamation and that costume have been Michael Murray's routine six nights a week since the beginning of June, as he plays an icon in North Carolina's history.
“It's funny, because you'll be walking down the street, and people will stop and say 'Oh, you must be Sir Walter Raleigh,' not even having seen the show that season,” said Murray. “They can just tell by the Elizabethan-style beards, and they just know. And I think they smell 'actor' on us.”
They are the actors who play members of the ill-fated Lost Colony, a story brought to life at the Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island since the 1930s.
“This is the 75th anniversary season, and it's a wonder that it's made it that long. It's a historical show, but the show has been around so long it's become history itself,” said Murray.
A history they recognize every summer on alumni weekend, when current and former cast members converge on the theater to celebrate what they did for the show, and what the show did for them.
William Ivy Long's Lost Colony cast member days go back to his childhood. Today, he's the show's costume designer and a five-time Tony Award-winning costume designer.
"It's where I learned, where I was born theatrically,” said William Ivy Long, costume designer. “And I keep coming back. I find time. I just make time in the midst of Broadway shows, and it's just important. It's a really important part of my life.”
“William is another prime example, even after all his Tonys, he comes back here and makes his contributions,” said former cast member Marjalene Thomas.
The audience is clapping for Marjalene Thomas, one of “The Lost Colony's” most senior alumni.
“I'm still with the show,” she said. “That's why I was the last one standing last night. I started in 1938, and I'm still here.”
As is the case other for others in the Lost Colony family, who use alumni weekend to relive memories they share and mourn family they lost.
This year, the show lost its most ardent supporter and famous alum – Andy Griffith.
A recording is player before every performance: "Good evening, and welcome to the historic Waterside Theatre. This is Andy Griffith … and behalf of all of us here at The Lost Colony, I want to tell you how happy we are to have you here, and hope you have a wonderful time."
“The 'Colony' was always very important to Andy and to his family,” said Thomas. “I was in the show when he was Sir Walter Raleigh. I don't think he felt that was one of his best roles, but he sure did play it for all it was worth.”
Michael Murray said he, even though he never met Griffith, he felt a connection to him through the role of Sir Walter Raleigh.
“And so when I told folks some time ago that I was playing Sir Walter, they'd say 'Oh! Andy Griffith played that role,'” he said. “So, you know, they're some big shoes. I never had the privilege of meeting him myself, but I felt a certain connection. You have it in your mind and you have it in your heart, and I certainly had him very much there with me."