Entertainment

No more 'redface:' Lost Colony production will no longer hire white actors for Native American roles

Posted April 11, 2021 5:28 p.m. EDT
Updated April 11, 2021 8:11 p.m. EDT

— After 83 years of production, The Lost Colony will no longer cast white actors in 'redface' for Native American roles.

First staged in 1937, the popular outdoor play tells the mysterious and tragic story of the Roanoke Colony in North Carolina.

The historic change was prompted by an online petition by Adam Griffin that demanded the play "stop performing racist, redface performances."

The petition, which has been signed by over 600 people, calls the play out for bronzing or painting the skin of white actors so that they appear "like Native Americans.”

Griffin's petition says this is a form of blackface, coined as "redface."

The Lost Colony will no longer hire white actors to play roles of indigenous Americans

Kevin Bradley, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Roanoke Island Historical Society, said, "When petition first came out, my reaction was, okay here we go – cancel culture is coming after us."

Bradley said he felt like the play was being victimized by the petition – but then he called Griffin and listened to his perspective.

"I called him, and that really has been the key," said Bradley. "We talked for a long time. And I thought, okay you’re right, let’s make some changes."

He said Griffin's 'calling them out' is what pushed them, and that they've become pretty good friends since then.

The Lost Colony will no longer cast white actors in "redface" to play Native American roles.

Requesting help with racial sensitivity from the Lumbee Tribe

While Bradley contends The Lost Colony production has "never done anything to be intentionally insensitive," he acknowledges that after 83 years, it's time to make a change.

The production has around 60 roles, of which 20 must be filled by indigenous Americans.

Bradley said finding indigenous actors is "hard to do" because there's "not a big pipeline of Native American actors who are readily available."

He said, however, it's important to make the effort.

He seeks to hire performers of indigenous American descent, as well as Native American drummers.

The Lost Colony will no longer hire white actors to play roles of indigenous Americans

Griffin's online petition also accused the Lost Colony of being perpetuating "a false narrative of what our country’s history looks like – and promoting 'patriotism' over accuracy."

Members of the Lumbee Tribe in Lumberton will assist around the production table this season to help guide The Lost Colony's improvement in their depiction of 16th century Native American culture.

"The Lumbee Tribe has provided incredible insights and resources under the leadership of their Chairman, Harvey Godwin," said Bradley.

"The production's associate choreographer, Jerad Toadacheenie, who is Native American, has also played a key role in helping us through these important adjustments," he said.

The response from community has been relatively positive, according to Bradley – although, he said, there are still people "very married" to what they saw when they were young.

Bradley said in a statement that he feels positive about the new changes, which he feels will only make The Lost Colony story even more historically accurate.

He said, "We remain committed to telling the incredible story of the Roanoke Colonies that arrived on the Outer Banks of NC in 1584-1587, while at the same time creating a more accurate depiction of the people who were living on the land when they arrived."

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