Outdoor Historical Dramas: Southeast Summer Theater

An American Summer Tradition for Educational Entertainment

Photo of Unto These Hills
Photo: Bill Russ / VisitNC.com

Debuted in 1937 during the Great Depression, The Lost Colony was the first of America's outdoor historical dramas. Establishing a unique theatrical tradition that has continued to expand and thrive across the nation, The Lost Colony was originally commissioned by residents of Roanoke Island, North Carolina as a year-long 350th Anniversary celebration of the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born on American soil. Paul Green (17 March 1894 - 4 May 1981), a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a native of North Carolina, was selected for the project.

The great success of The Lost Colony, which continues today, set the stage for a new and distinctively American dramatic form, the outdoor historical drama or symphonic drama. These original plays are based on historical events and are performed in large, rustic amphitheaters, usually situated in scenic settings where the actual events portrayed in the drama originally unfolded. Other production elements frequently incorporated in the genre include period music and dance, elaborate sets and costumes, special effects, live animals, and ambitious battle scenes.

In 1963, The Institute of Outdoor Drama, a public service agency in the College of Arts and Sciences of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was established to provide leadership in fostering artistic and managerial excellence of the outdoor drama movement. According to the Institute, there are over 30 outdoor historical dramas performed throughout the United States, attracting approximately 2.5 million attendees annually.

Providing entertainment with great educational value, the following outdoor historical dramas in the Southeast offer summer vacationers an array of memorable experiences with an appeal for most ages. Due to extreme popularity, advance tickets are usually required and always recommended.

North Carolina Outdoor Historical Dramas

Kentucky Outdoor Historical Dramas

West Virginia Outdoor Historical Dramas

  • The Aracoma Story - Logan, West Virginia
  • Hatfields and McCoys / Honey in the Rock - Beckley, West Virginia

Virginia Outdoor Historical Drama

Alabama Outdoor Historical Drama

  • The Miracle Worker - Tuscumbia, Alabama

Tennessee Outdoor Historical Drama