For the past two months, we had an exhibit, Blackbeard in Outdoor Theatre, in Joyner Library. It focused on the four plays in North Carolina that featured Blackbeard. The first one, Queen Anne’s Bell, was produced in 1955 to celebrate the town of Bath’s 250th anniversary. To honor the heritage of Bath’s people, everything from Bath’s founding to traditional Bath Christmases were depicted, including one of Bath’s most notorious residents, Edward Teach – better known as Blackbeard. Teach was depicted as a boisterous drunk, lacking any moral fiber. Despite this, the greedy Governor Charles Eden and his secretary Tobias Knight allowed Teach into Bath to trade his ill-gotten goods. Because of those two gluttonous colonial officials, Teach was allowed to disturb the otherwise tranquil town.
The second play, Blackbeard: Raider of the Carolina Seas, was written by Ruth Peeling of Carteret County and first performed in 1963. The play centered on the fictional characters of Loretta Thaxton and Theodore Buckman, and their shared hardships while prisoners aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge beginning in July 1718. Blackbeard was portrayed as an impulsive, self-centered man exemplified by his decision to keep Loretta as his servant against the wishes of his crew, instead of ransoming her at Charles Town as planned. Both Loretta and Theodore finally gain their freedom after Lieutenant Maynard of the Royal navy tracked down Blackbeard and put an end to his career. But as the two former prisoners go off to live their lives, they see the ghost of Blackbeard, explaining the legend of Blackbeard sightings.
The last two plays were both written by Stuart Aronson. The first, Blackbeard: Knight of the Black Flag, was performed for ten years beginning in 1977, and revived in 2005 for Bath’s tri-centennial. The play sought to humanize Blackbeard during his last five months. Told from the perspective of Mary Ormand, Blackbeard’s wife, the play explained that Edward Teach was a man capable of great kindness, and that his ferocious persona of Blackbeard was all an act to create his notorious reputation. Spurred to piratical raids by the greedy Governor Eden and his secretary Knight, who were portrayed as the true villains, Blackbeard became an empathetic person trapped in an unfair world. The play ends with Mary learning of Blackbeard’s death and Lieutenant Robert Maynard decapitating the body.
The second, Blackbeard’s Revenge, debuted in 1985. In what Aronson freely admitted as a “fanciful romance,” the play filled in the gaps of the pirate’s early career. Beginning with Teach’s service as a seaman onboard Captain Hornigold’s privateering vessel, the play proceeded to chronical Teach’s rise to the notorious persona of Blackbeard. But the play did not last long. Resulting from financial difficulties, Crystal Coast Amphitheatre, where the play was performed, was sold to a Christian organization in 1987. The new owners opted to replace Blackbeard’s Revenge with a passion play, ending the beginning of Blackbeard.
The exhibit was recently taken down, but above are photos. Items used in the exhibit include photographs, souvenir programs, and publicity material. Additionally, the Institute’s archives has correspondence and various other materials related to each of the four plays involving Blackbeard.
There are currently no outdoor plays that focus on Blackbeard. But there is always the possibility of one of these plays being revived or a new play written. What do you think? Is there enough interest to generate a Blackbeard play? Or perhaps you attended one of the plays mentioned?