Kermit Hunter is a well known American playwright. But, he is also known in the history of the Smokies due to the fact that he wrote Unto These Hills, the second longest running outdoor drama in the US and one of the highlights to any visit to Cherokee, NC. He also wrote the outdoor drama, Horn in the West which is performed each season in Boone, NC.
Kermit Hunter was born in West Virginia. After a time in the US Army in World War II, he went on to manage the North Carolina Symphony. Over time, working with various theatrical companies, Hunter went on to his graduate studies program in Dramatic Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While he was there several of his plays would be produced by the Carolina Playmaker’s. At this same time, the city of Cherokee started to look for someone to write a dramatic interpretation of the Cherokee people to be performed at an outdoor site in Cherokee.
Hunter jumped on this project and began to transform the information and the vision of the Cherokee Historical Association into a script and then into a production. Hunters draft won the submission contest and his most famous play, Unto These Hills was first performed in 1950. Though the play has been changed over the years and the current version has little resemblance to the original Kermit Hunter play it is still his vision that put this outdoor drama on the map. Hunter parlayed the success with Unto These Hills into scripting the play that would be performed by the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma until the mid-90s – The Trail of Tears.
Hunter’s other legacy is the play Horn in the West which is performed in Boone, NC during season each year. This play tells the story of the people that founded the city of Boone and the Western north Carolina mountains. Horn of the West features such American heroes as Daniel Boone and the story of a very dramatic and at times tragic time in American history. This outdoor drama, while not as long running as Unto These Hills is still a part of the history and cultural scene in the Smokies.
In all, Kermit Hunter wrote more then 40 historical plays. He is still known for his work in the Smokies and the people that are performing those works today in the same theaters and venues owe the tales the tell to Kermit Hunter.