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Call of the ‘Horn’

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: Jun. 20, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 20, 2013
Call of the ‘Horn’

'Horn in the West' tells the story of Western North Carolina's part in the American Revolution through drama, action and music. The outdoor drama runs June 28 to Aug. 17.

Photo by William Purcell

“Horn in the West,” one of Western North Carolina’s most revered outdoor dramas, is a story of patriotism, self-reliance and planting the seeds of a new republic.

After more than 60 seasons of captivating audiences with tales centered on the life of Daniel Boone, the play’s producers are revving up for another summer.

The American Revolution-era drama’s season runs June 28 to Aug. 17 at Horn in the West in Boone. Performances take place nightly at 8 p.m. (with a 7:30 p.m. pre-show), except for Mondays.

But this year’s renewal of the High Country classic almost did not happen.

“We’ve had our (financial) struggles,” artistic director Julie Richardson said. “We’ve had a lot of people step up to the plate to be donors.”

Richardson said the community’s support is evidence of the town’s close connection to the play and its heritage.

“We know the story did not happen exactly on this spot, but Boone crossed through here, and (the town of) Boone decided they wanted to open the outdoor drama 62 years ago and keep the tradition,” Richardson said. “We are giving life to a story (about) the founding of the town of Boone and Watauga County. It’s a story about the fight for freedom and what freedom costs.”

Unlike traditional theatrical productions, actors and crew members of the outdoor drama face unique challenges. They must contend with the elements, the noise of a growing populace and dealing with sound and acoustical issues.

Joe Watson will be playing the role of Daniel Boone for his second season.

Watson said former director Ed Pilkington discovered him during a production at Appalachian State University.

“Ed gave me a call last spring and said, ‘Hey, I saw you in the show, and I would like to give your name to Julie about the role of Dr. Stewart,’” Watson sad.

But the play’s directors soon had much larger aspirations for Watson.

“I got the call from Julie after she had me read the part for Daniel Boone, and (she) said, ‘Joe, you are my Daniel Boone.’ That’s how the beginning of the conversation started. I was excited.”

Since landing the iconic role, Watson has become totally immersed in his character and even went so far as to hand-stitch his personal costume.

Watson’s first season on the stage was nerve-wracking.

“I was scared,” he said. “I had never been cast in a production before. When she (Richardson) told me I would be given a principal role, I was extremely frightened. I hadn’t been that nervous on stage in a long time, but I felt the first season went very well.”

Buck Roberts, the play’s sound designer, is eagerly awaiting the start of a new season.

“Every year, I get really excited about the show because I feel the show is really important to the community,” Roberts said. “This year, there will come new twists that will be really good to help with the flow of the show. There’s a high level of professionalism here on a shoestring budget.”

For more information on the play or ticket prices, call (828) 264-2120 or visit

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