Tri-state area offers several options for ‘outdoor drama’

Published 3:17 pm Friday, July 13, 2018

Outdoor drama has sometimes been described as the place where history meets the arts, where stories about our past meet today’s generation with new understanding and appreciation for our heritage.

And, in the summer of 2018, there are many choices within reasonable driving distance for those of us in the tri-state area to see one outdoor drama or several if time and money permit.

In Kentucky, for example, there is an outdoor theater at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Bardstown’s My Old Kentucky Home State Park, home of “The Stephen Foster Story,” and of course the Pine Mountain State Resort Park, where the “Book of Job” will be staged for four performances (in August and September).

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The Middlesboro Little Theatre will present the biblical story of Job, which was arranged for stage by Orlin Corey. He brought the dramatic story to Laurel Cove Amphitheatre after success at the Brussels World Fair more than half a century ago. Irene Corey designed the unique stage costumes that will be recreated by local actors this summer.

A recent Daily News story announced that a play about Virginia’s pioneer heroine, Mary Draper Ingles, will return to Radford for its second season. The original drama “The Long Way Home” about Ingles’ heroic efforts ran from 1971 to 1999. That version was adapted for stage by Professor Earl Hobson Smith, longtime professor at Lincoln Memorial University and a prolific playwright.

Another of Smith’s adaptations, “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” opened in 1964 and continues to attract a summer audience in Big Stone Gap. It is one of the longest running outdoor dramas in the United States and is based on the John Fox, Jr., novel by the same name.

In Tennessee, the Official Outdoor Drama of the State is another long-running production. It is “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,” and is staged in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton.

At Cherokee, North Carolina, more than six million people have seen “Unto These Hills” since it was first presented in 1950. It’s a tale that treats the tragedy of the Trail of Tears and the triumph of the Cherokee Indians.

On these and other outdoor plays in this part of the country, there are websites with more inclusive information about show dates, times, cost of admission and other details that help in planning an outdoor summer experience to remember.