Cross and Sword

My sister and I were part of the original cast of Cross and Sword, an outdoor drama recreating the founding of St. Augustine in 1565. It premiered in 1965 as part of our quadracentennial celebration.  We were hired as extras with no lines who wandered in and out of scenes – most often as Indians – throughout the performance. We even got paid! After taxes, we each brought home $15 a week – $10 of which went into the bank to buy school clothes at the end of the summer. It was a great job allowing us to spend our days at the beach and our nights hanging out with an amazing group of talented people.

Cross and Sword brochure

Cross and Sword brochure from the 1965 season with original cast autographs.

We girls wore leotards dyed with “Indian paint”, skirts of Spanish moss and long black wigs. The Indian paint was a strange clay-based concoction with some detergent thrown in to help wash it off later. It was awful stuff. Even so, it was better than the heavy costumes the colonists had to wear in the summer heat.

The St. Augustine Amphitheater was built for this production which took advantage of the stage and the hills on each side of the seating area. While the landing Spaniards are marching in from the hillside stage right, the Indians are watching these strange people from the hillside stage left. We youngsters enjoyed the gasp from the audience when they first saw us. It took them a second to realize we weren’t naked.

When not on stage we would hang out at the “dressing rooms” – a small building in the woods near the stage. The acoustic were so good that we could hear everything happening on stage and knew when to head back for our next scene.

Cross and Sword Brochure interior

Brochure interior with more autographs.

I took my husband to the 30th anniversary season premiere. It had a much smaller cast but still quite a spectacle. I still remembered the songs and most of the dialogue.

Because we had the costumes, we were also part of the fiesta celebration in early September. There’s a great photograph of a bunch of us walking down St. George Street in our costumes waving at people on the balcony of the Arrivas House. One of them was a photographer from National Geographic and that photo made it into the article on St. Augustine’s quadracentennial. That article can be read online in the National Geographic Magazine Archive (requires registration).

This brochure is a treasured memento of a magical summer and an amazing group of people.

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