Behind the Scenes at ‘Horn in the West’

By Michelle Ligon (Special to The Mountain Times)

Article Published: Jun. 19 | Modified: Jun. 19
Behind the Scenes at ‘Horn in the West’

From left, artistic director Teresa Lee and props master, fight choreographer and actress Sarah Flanagan discuss plans to refurbish stage props.
Photos by Michelle Ligon

This is the fourth in a series of articles detailing the history and service of the Southern Appalachian Historical Association, producers of the celebrated outdoor drama, ‘Horn in the West,’ returning to the Daniel Boone Amphitheater June 27 to Aug. 16.

Behind the scenes at “Horn in the West,” technical crew members are working long days in preparation for opening night, Friday, June 27. The crew’s outlook is cheerful, excited and with great appreciation for the opportunities.

Allison Collins started with “Horn in the West” a few years ago as a costume technician, working under the supervision of costume designer Alice Neff. Before long, Collins was also in high demand for roles on stage because of her acting and dance expertise.

A 2013 graduate of Appalachian State University, Collins is now employed full-time at Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk.

“My time at ‘Horn in the West’ helped me secure an internship at Flat Rock Playhouse several years ago, and now I work at Virginia Stage Company nine months out of the year,” she said.

Fellow costume technician Emily Candelario said, “One of the beautiful things about working here is it’s a great way to network. I’m always running into people who worked at ‘Horn’ at some point. As a nationally reputable company, ‘Horn in the West’ is well-known by most theater people.”

For Teresa Lee, “Horn in the West” artistic director, the venue and the show present unique challenges and opportunities. Lee has taught theater at Appalachian State University for 25 years.

“The comprehensive nature of outdoor drama provides a real, hands-on learning experience for these young artisans,” Lee said. “You have to take on planning and assessment of the physical plans, as well as the design aspects. We are creating jobs here and now, as well as for the future careers of these actors and technicians.”

Emerging artist Sarah Flanagan works daily to sort through and refurbish stage props. She is employed in several roles for her first year at “Horn in the West,” working as props master, fight choreographer and playing the role of Nancy Ward.

Flanagan, who is originally from Upstate New York and a postgraduate of Louisiana Technical College, said, “The show has good bones. I really like that we’re focused on historical accuracy here. I was frustrated before (working at another outdoor drama), seeing things go on stage and thinking, ‘But wait, that wouldn’t exist then.’ So, it’s good that we strive for accuracy here.”

Sound designer Greg Williams is working with a young technician, Glenn Driskill, to bring significant improvements to the sound system this season.

“‘Horn in the West’ is a great mix of seasoned professionals who choose to spend their summers in the cool mountains, as well as emerging technical and acting artists who choose to work with those people in outdoor drama and use it as a springboard for their careers,” Williams said.

Williams is a great example of one of those seasoned professionals. He mixes sound for MerleFest bands and many other Grammy award-winning artists. In addition, Williams is a professional photographer, who has worked with actress Kate Winslet on an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot for Vanity Fair.

Williams pointed out that this season’s “Horn in the West” has more significant professional credits in technical director Owen Nichols, lighting designer John Marty and costume designer Neff, who has worked at Glimmerglass Festival opera house in New York.

Approximately 16 technical artisans are working hard this summer to bring “Horn in the West” to life for its 63rd consecutive season. They come from states all over the country, including New York, Alabama and Florida, as well as right here in Boone.

“We have the dream team this year,” Lee said. “I can’t wait to see it all come together. There is enormous dedication by so many to produce this wonderful show in a short amount of time. It’s amazing, really.”

“Horn in the West” is one of three “legacy outdoor dramas,” according to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre. The show is the longest-running Revolutionary War outdoor drama in America. Opening weekend is June 27 to 29, with a Watauga County Night special ticket price. For information on tickets, call (828) 264-2120, or visit

Southern Appalachian Historical Association Inc., a nonprofit organization, has produced “Horn in the West” since 1952 and Hickory Ridge Living History Museum since 1980. Visit to learn about ways to support SAHA’s mission.

Additional Images

From left, artistic director Teresa Lee and props master, fight choreographer and actress Sarah Flanagan discuss plans to refurbish stage props.
Photos by Michelle Ligon

Appalachian State University graduate and Virginia Stage Company member Allison Collins is an alumna of ‘Horn in the West,’ who now works as costume technician, actor and dancer.

From left, lighting designer John Marty meets with technicians Brittney Suttles and Phillip Henderson about lighting plans for ‘Horn in the West.’

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