The High Country in and around Boone has one of the richest assortments of performing arts in the state this summer. Plan a trip between June and August and you’ll find music, theater or an outdoor drama to enjoy just about every evening.
Celebrating its 25th year, Lees-McRae Summer Theatre in Banner Elk, less than an hour from Boone and Blowing Rock, presents an array of musical theatre and drama. The 2009 season, June 17–August 3, includes Cats, The Secret Garden and Guys and Dolls.
For 26 seasons, An Appalachian Summer Festival has brought the best in dance, theater, music, art and film to Boone. With events spanning June 27 through July 25, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to choose your favorites. The 2009 season highlights include folk stalwart Joan Baez, Grammy Award-winner Melissa Manchester, Buckwheat Zydeco and Kenny Loggins; the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Pilobolus; the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Broyhill Chamber Ensemble and Eastern Philharmonic Orchestra; and Triad Stage’s productions of Oleanna and Providence Gap. There’s an outdoor sculpture competition and exhibition, a film series, visual arts workshops for children and adults, and more.
Considered the birthplace of the outdoor symphonic drama, North Carolina is home to 11 historical summer plays, running generally from May to August, which have entertained and informed generations of visitors. Along with long-running productions like The Lost Colony in Manteo and Unto These Hills in Cherokee, you’ll have several outdoor dramas to choose from during your travels in the High Country.
In Boone, the nation’s oldest Revolutionary War drama, Horn in the West recounts the adventures of frontiersman Daniel Boone fighting for freedom against the British. Nearby, Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend in Wilkesboro dramatizes the well-known Civil War-era love triangle that resulted in the murder of Laura Foster and the popular “Ballad of Tom Dooley.” Learn more about this region’s arts, storytelling and living traditions by visiting our new Web site for Historic Happy Valley. Happy Valley is located minutes from Lenoir and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Less than an hour away in Valdese, you’ll find another outdoor drama, From This Day Forward. Valdese Tourism Director Barbara Hefner (www.visitvaldese.com) offers these suggestions on how to attend an outdoor drama.
While any of our state’s outdoor dramas can be enjoyed for their stories and production values, your experience will be better and deeper if you take the time for some pre-show preparations.
One of the unique aspects about outdoor dramas is their sense of place. They are performed where the events they dramatize happened. Our local outdoor drama, From This Day Forward, deals with the Waldensians’ quest for religious freedom which brought them to Valdese. Take some extra time to visit local museums or historic sites that provide background for the story you’re going to see. A trip to the Waldensian Museum and the Trail of Faith—featuring actual replicas of Waldensian homes—will add to your understanding of the story told in From This Day Forward. All outdoor dramas have Web sites with rich background information—check them out.
As with any outdoor event, you’ll want to make preparations for your own comfort. Most outdoor dramas will perform in light rain, so be sure to pack your umbrella. Bug repellent is a must for evenings outdoors in North Carolina. And don’t forget a seat cushion. If you do forget any of these items, most outdoor dramas have a gift/concession stand where you can find them for a small fee.
Finally, be sure to visit a local restaurant or coffee shop before or after the production. Here in Valdese, Myra’s Little Italy can add some authentic Waldensian cuisine to your experience, including “sautissa,” a Waldensian-style sausage. And if you have some extra time before the show, The Old Rock School, built in 1923, is a great example of Waldensian stone masonry and features two art galleries.
No matter which outdoor drama you choose, a little pre-show preparation will insure that you will have a memorable night out enjoying one of our state’s most unique art forms. Lights out…music begins…enjoy a night under the stars at an outdoor drama!
For more information about what to do and where to stay in North Carolina’s High Country, explore High Country Host, Blue Ridge Mountain Host, and Visit Boone. There are handy links to all of North Carolina’s Outdoor Dramas at VisitNC.com.