Mary Draper Ingles Outdoor Drama Returns For Second Season

Outdoor drama has been called a form of entertainment that exists at the crossroads of theater and history. That’s exactly what patrons will see this summer when a play about Virginia’s pioneer heroine Mary Draper Ingles returns to the historic Nesselrod Bed and Breakfast Amphitheater in Radford.

Titled “Walk to Freedom: The Mary Draper Ingles Story,” the production premiered last year with all four performances sold-out. The 2018 season has been expanded to nine shows and will include both general admission and dinner/play options.

The new play is the amazing frontier story of Mary’s capture by Shawnee Indians from her Blue Ridge Mountain home in July 1755 during the French and Indian War. Although forced to travel through wilderness and held in servitude, this woman demonstrated remarkable physical and mental strength as she escaped from her captors and walked through Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, navigating only through memory back to the New River Valley.

In the 250-plus years since this inspirational journey, several films, two outdoor dramas and numerous books, including a New York Times bestseller, have been written about this young woman.

Deborah Cooney, director of tourism for the City of Radford, says the story of the colonial heroine continues to capture the imagination of not only Virginians but also visitors from across the country. She says that the original drama “The Long Way Home,” which ran from 1971 to 1999, drew thousands to the city during its run.

“We hoped the revised play would be as popular and we haven’t been disappointed,” she added. “In fact, that’s why The Long Way Home organization that runs the new production, more than doubled the number of performances this year.”

Mary Draper Ingles sculpture
Mary Draper Ingles sculpture

Cooney says other sites of interest in Radford that help tell the story of Mary’s epic journey include an elegant bronze statue, an obelisk at Westview Cemetery, the Ingles Farm and a documentary film at the Radford Visitor’s Center inside the Glencoe Mansion, Museum & Gallery.

Director for the 2018 production is Wesley Young, a playwright and actor as well as a theatre professor at Radford University. Young and Kathleen Harshberger, who portrayed Mary in the original production, wrote the new play. Young says he sees “Mary’s story as one of great courage and resolve, but it’s also about getting back to the people you love and the place you belong. That’s the approach I hope to bring to audiences this summer,” he added.

Performance dates are: June 22, 23 & 24 and July 13, 14 & 15 and July 27, 28 & 29. For ticket prices and additional information, visit www.nesselrod.com or call 540-999-1755. The amphitheater is located off Exit 109/Interstate 81.