Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Nelson McCausland MLA has visited The Playhouse Theatre to voicehis support for The Playhouse's new production based on the life of legendary songwriter Stephen Foster.
The new play, 'Kind Hearts and Gentle People - the life of Stephen Collins Foster', based on the life of the 'father of American popular song', will premiere in The Playhouse in March 2011.
Regarded as America's first professional song-writer, Stephen Collins Foster is one of Derry/ Londonderry's forgotten famous sons. His ancestor emigrated from the city in the 18th century.
Stephen Foster went on to write some of America's earliest and most famous songs such as "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "Hard Times Come Again No More", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Old Black Joe", and "Beautiful Dreamer" - tunes which remain popular over 150 years after their composition.
This exciting new play, which will feature a number of Foster's songs, is being written by local Playwright Peter McDonald [The Green Room, Five Years Time] and will be directed by Anne McMaster [Sad Silence of Snow, Noir].
Meeting the writer and director, the Minister said: "Kind Hearts and Gentle People - the life of Stephen Collins Foster, promises to give a fascinating theatrical insight into one of the iconic figures in the Ulster-Scots diaspora.
"Stephen Collins Foster's songs may still reverberate today, but his life and Ulster Scots origins are unknown to many. This play will shed light on an artist who had a profound influence on culture both in the US and across the world."
"Today, you don't have to look far to see his influence: Stephen Collins Foster was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame just this year, and he has been cited as an influence by many of today's musical greats, including Alison Krauss, John Prine and Bob Dylan."
The play will be performed next March and the Playhouse will be holding auditions for various parts later this year.
The play's producer Martin McDonald said: "We are absolutely delighted to have the support of the culture minister for this brand new Playhouse production. Stephen Collins Foster is a fascinating character to study, he was an immensely talented musician, and we really wanted to tap into the fact that his ancestors, Alexander Foster, emigrated from this city in 1735."
"He is an important part of the history of this city, and we are keen to celebrate this connection."