July 14, 2013. It is the end of an era at Horn in the West in Boone. For 20 years, actor Darrell King has breathed life into the character of the comical and stout-hearted Rev. Isaiah Sims, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who befriends Dr. Geoffrey Stuart, the lead character in the production. On July 14, however, King’s tenure in the role will come to an end as he steps out of the good Reverend’s shoes for the final time.
King, a native of Lincolnton, North Carolina, is a 26 year verteran of the Horn stage, having initially joined the cast in 1988. He first took on the role of Rev. Simms in 1993, and has gone on to portray the character for one of the longest tenures in outdoor drama. July 14 will mark his 1,000th and final appearance in the role.
“I had intended last season to be my final one,” King said “but a friend wanted to know how many performances I had done as Sims, and we sat down and did the math. When we found out that I was this close to the 1,000 mark, I had to come back for just a little longer.”
After July 14, the role of Rev. Sims will be filled by Kyle Travis, who understudied the Sims character during the 2012 season.
“I will miss it,” said King, “but I’ve had a long, wonderful run with the character, and not it’s time someone else have a turn.”
Over its 62 years of continual production, Horn in the West has had a history of actors who have spent many years in the same role. Charles Elledge, the originator of the role of Rev. Sims, played the character for over 30 years, and Glenn Causey remained in the role of Daniel Boone for 41 years. One of the problems associated with a long tenure in the role, King said, is simply an actor’s aging.
“I watched Glenn slowly become physically incapable of doing some of the things he had done when he was younger,” he said. “Daniel Boone had to change because Glenn had to change. I’m no longer having to put grey into my beard with makeup. I want to go out while I’m still capable of performing the role to the audience’s expectations and to my fullest ability.”
Though Horn in the West has had a “wet” start with many rainy nights so far, the drama has received overwhelming support from alumni, local government and the community.
The drama is now offering half price adult tickets to local residents for every Sunday night performance through the end of the season. This allows any Wataugans, with proof of residency, to see Darrell’s final show for only $10 per ticket.
“Sixty-two years ago our community banded together to celebrate our mountain heritage and began telling our ancestors’ stories with Horn in the West. This year, it became clear that this community still supports our organization as we received an outpouring of encouragement and donations from individuals, local businesses and government funding from the County. We are very lucky to have such a supportive community,” said Katy Cook, director of public relations and administration at SAHA.
Horn in the West, the nation’s longest-running Revolutionary War outdoor drama, is celebrating its 62nd season this summer. Both Horn in the West and Hickory Ridge Living History Museum are produced by the Souther Appalachian Historical Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 1952.
Performances of Horn in the West run Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. through Saturday, Aug 17. Hickory Ridge is open nightly before the show from 5:30-8 p.m. and on Saturday mornings during the adjacent Farmers’ Market. For more information, call 828-264-2120.