Dramatist, teacher and author Paul Green (1894-1981) is one of North Carolina’s most revered writers and one of America’s most distinguished. He grew up on a cotton farm in rural Harnett County, North Carolina, learning the value of hard physical labor as well as the importance and beauty of literature and music. He read books in the fields as he followed a mule-drawn plow and taught himself to play the violin, and would later compose music for his own dramas.
After graduation from Buies Creek Academy, Green taught school and played baseball until he earned enough money to go the University of North Carolina, but his college education was interrupted by World War I. Before leaving for France, uncertain whether he would survive the war, he self-published a small book of poems, Trifles of Thought by P.E.G. He served for several months in the trenches, and was deeply affected by his experiences, although he rarely spoke of them. Returning to Chapel Hill, he became active in Frederick Koch’s newly formed Carolina Playmakers, writing one of the first plays the group produced. The tutelage of Koch, an advocate of what he termed “folk drama,” strongly influenced Green’s early plays although a deeply rooted concern for ordinary people and their experiences marks all of his work, including his huge, panoramic Symphonic Dramas.
Paul Green’s first Broadway play, In Abraham’s Bosom, won a Pulitzer Prize, and was followed by six more Broadway plays over his lifetime, as well as numerous other short and full-length plays, screenplays, short-story collections, and books of nonfiction. A lifelong fascination with theatrical elements such as dance, language, music, and lighting, combined with a desire for the drama to make a difference in American social life, led to Paul Green’s development of the Symphonic Outdoor Drama. His first, The Lost Colony, has been staged in Manteo, NC every year since its first performance in 1937, except during World War II. More than fifty of these historically-based plays, including five of Green’s original seventeen, produced in outdoor amphitheaters near where their actual events took place, are staged annually across the United States.
Green taught philosophy and drama at Chapel Hill until 1944, when he retired to devote his time to writing. In addition to his early Pulitzer Prize, Paul Green’s awards include two Guggenheim Fellowships, the National Theatre Conference plaque, an American Theatre Association citation, the Frank P. Graham Award, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. In 1979, the General Assembly named him North Carolina’s dramatist laureate. He received eight honorary doctorates, and was posthumously inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in New York City. Through his life and writing, he acted and spoke in support of the basic rights of all humanity. Paul Green was “haunted by the ideal of perfection” and believed “in the uniqueness of man as responsible to his neighbor and to God.”
Wilderness Road: A Symphonic Outdoor Drama (Samuel French, 1956):
Watch Part 1 of an episode of “My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina,” which features The Lost Colony Symphonic Outdoor Drama by the Coastal Production Company, Inc. Includes clips of the production:
Watch Part 2 of an episode of “My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina,” which features The Lost Colony Symphonic Outdoor Drama by the Coastal Production Company, Inc. Includes clips of the production:
Watch Part 3 of an episode of “My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina,” which features The Lost Colony Symphonic Outdoor Drama by the Coastal Production Company, Inc. Includes clips of the production:
(Courtesy of My Heart Will Always Be in North Carolina)