The Plan To Create Dakota

New Outdoor Drama in the Black Hills

Summer theater, including outdoor drama, claims a long and successful history in western South Dakota. What's more, the Black Hills' colorful history has inspired a vast range of entertainers over the decades, from the Beatles to the creators of HBO's ground-breaking "Deadwood" series.

Considering the region's theatrical heritage and an international fascination with the Black Hills that seems never-ending, there's no better place to develop the first major American outdoor drama in many years. This epic production will focus on six remarkable characters of the 1800s, exploring their lives over 15 tumutuous years. Sounds like a can't miss formula -- but to evaluate its feasibility the producers engaged a consulting team from the highly respected Institute of Outdoor Drama, based at East Carolina University.

The Feasibility Study

To evaluate the feasibility of the Dakota project the producers engaged a team of consultants from the highly respected East Carolina University Institute of Outdoor Drama

The Institute of Outdoor Drama is a public service agency and is the only organization in the U.S. providing national leadership in fostering artistic and managerial excellence and expansion of the outdoor drama movement through training, research and advisory programs.


The Institute of Outdoor Drama consulting team visited the Black Hills, evaluated the amphitheater site candidates, interviewed local businessmen, academics and members of the state legislature and economic development and tourism professionals. They also studied visitor statistics for the area in general major local attractions in particular.

Results: Enthusiastic Audiences - Major Economic Impact - International Visitors

Key points from feasibility study include:

  • The popularity of historical drama is long term and strong. During the summer of 2011, 1.4 million people attended outdoor dramas in the United States.
  • The economic rewards for a region that possesses a successful outdoor epic drama can be great, but the drama's true value lies in giving voice to the cultural symbols of the area, the emotions of the way life has been lived, and in demonstrating a connection between the past and the future.
  • Total spending for visitors for the first year of the drama is estimated to be $6,914,000. The production should be a valuable new attraction that will add to the mix of activities and attractions that influence and enhance visitors spending. The spending and impact will help support 180 new jobs in the immediate area.
  • The proposed drama will be excellent for attracting international visitors. German, British and Japanese tourists like to visit our National Parks and are very interested in the culture and heritage of the U.S. and especially of the Old West.