BOONE — “Horn in the West” is not as old as these hills, but it’s been around long enough to become as much a part of summer in Boone as train rides at Tweetsie Railroad and drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Written by Kermit Hunter, who also wrote “Unto These Hills,” “Horn in the West” has been staged every summer since 1952 at the Daniel Boone Amphitheatre, making it the longest-running Revolutionary War drama in the country.
It’s a compelling story of the first white settlers in Western North Carolina, as they wrestle with lofty themes of freedom and duty during the years between 1771 and 1780, when early Americans were getting a taste for independence from the British crown. Daniel Boone, the town’s namesake, has a major role in the play, which is split into two acts, and lasts around two hours.
The play features music, dancing, fire, lots of fun battle scenes, period costumes and dashes of corn-pone humor from the delightful Jenny Cole in the role of Widow Howard and Darrell King in the role of Rev. Sims.
Theater-goers will walk away having learned some American history and feeling a little grateful for the settlers’ courage.
“Horn in the West” is staged on a piece of property in Boone owned by the city. Though the amphitheatre is showing a bit of wear and tear, the grounds are beautiful, and include several cabins operated by the Southern Appalachian Historical Association that are part of the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum. It’s worth paying a few extra bucks before the show to get yourself in the pioneer state of mind.
Britt Corry is in his second year as the play’s artist director. He has taught theater at Flagler College in Augustine, Fla., for 25 years.
He was responsible for hiring a crew of about 50 people, including many students from Florida and North Carolina.
Over the years, the script can change, though the story stays the same. When Corry arrived, he took the play back to a 1962 version of the script. He re-incorporated a fire dance performed by a Cherokee Indian, which is one of the visual highlights of the show.
“It’s not historically accurate, but it’s done for the sake of theatricality,” Corry said.
Corry made other tweaks and improvements as well, repairing lights, improving the sound and adding instrumentation to songs that had been performed a capella.
The staff is trying to beef up this year’s crowds, which were down last year because of rain.
“I think this is an excellent story,” Corry said. “It’s a great piece of theater. It has comedy, tragedy, battle scenes, spectacles and song and dance that make it a well-rounded production.”
“Horn in the West” stars Dustin Delgross as Dr. Geoffrey Stuart, William Hardy as Daniel Boone, Chris Morrow as Captain MacKenzie and Amelia Mangan as Mary Green.