N.C.’s Lost Colony Losses Total $2.7 Million

Usually it’s a lot quieter this time of year at The Lost Colony Building in Roanoke Island, N.C., where the business of the nation’s longest-running outdoor drama is administered.

But everyone has been on overdrive to recover from the devastating fire Sept. 11 that destroyed the production’s costume shop and most of the show’s costumes.

Losses, including the building and its contents, have been estimated at $2.7 million. The contents were insured for $40,000, based on the fact that they were always moving from building to building.

The National Park Service, the owner of the buildings at Waterside Theatre, is working with the historical association to rebuild the shop, said Mike Murray, Outer Banks Group superintendent.

When the 4,100-square-foot shop was built in 1997, it cost about $150,000, he said. Using the same plans that Manteo architect John Wilson designed for the original, with changes to meet modern building codes including sprinklers, the new shop will cost just under $500,000.

We’re confident we’ll get the funds,” Murray said. “We just haven’t got the details yet.”

Preliminary conclusions by a team with the National Interagency Fire Center agree with local inspectors who found the cause of the fire to be undetermined and accidental, Murray said. It’s likely that it was an electrical fire, but the exact origin can’t be pinpointed. It started in the maintenance shop and spread to the adjacent costume shop.

Culpepper said the show has been contacted by more than 200 individuals and organizations offering to help. A long list of donors has been posted on the play’s Web site.

“We’re opening our doors to everyone and anyone who wants to be part of this rebuild,” he said. “They can become a part of the experience that is ‘The Lost Colony.’ ”

The production still has a long way to go to get back on its feet before the 71st season starts May 30, but Tucker said that the amount of support he has seen is reassuring.

“It might be right down to the deadline, and on opening night we might be sewing on buttons,” Tucker said, “but the show will go on.”

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green, the play tells the saga of the 117 men, women and children who sailed from England in 1587 to Roanoke Island and vanished without a trace.

The show wrapped its 70th season at the end of August.

Terry Clark, the warehouse manager for the set dressing department for HBO’s upcoming “John Adams” miniseries, worked in “The Lost Colony” prop department for three seasons.

Clark said in a telephone interview that one of her alumni friends had e-mailed photographs of the fire scene. When she learned shortly after then that HBO had completed the scenes they needed, the wheels started turning to get the unneeded wardrobe, fabric, hangers, clothing racks, mannequins, threads and other sewing supplies to “The Lost Colony.”

Another industry friend, Janet Melody, helped secure donations from the “Bolden ” film set in Wilmington.

The film’s wardrobe ager-dyer, Melody said in a telephone interview that she has helped Curnutte in the past in “The Lost Colony” wardrobe department.

Melody said the “Bolden ” production is donating about 40 yards of silk and woolen fabric, textile paint and dye, wig heads and “a big huge box” of fabric pieces.

Replacing the more than 1,000 costume “looks” is going to be a daunting task, said Lance Culpepper, Curnutte’s administrative assistant. A temporary costume shop, he said, will be open soon at Morrison Grove, the cast quarters on Roanoke Island.

The Elizabethan courtier costumes spared from the flames because they were at the cleaners will be returned to the show, Tucker said. Other costumes, including the latest Elizabeth I gown, survived because they had been temporarily shipped to museums.

Sewing of some of the more difficult costumes, such as the red soldiers, Culpepper said, may be farmed out to costumers in New York, with the guidance of William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning Broadway costume designer who is the production designer for “The Lost Colony.”

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot,