Photo Flash: First Look at Off-Broadway's HARD TIMES

Hard Times the new Stephen Foster musical will serve up an Irish Wake in honor of the show's opening Off Broadway on January 13th---the 150th Anniversary of Foster's death. At a post-performance party all audience and cast members will share shots of Irish Whiskey to salute the acclaimed "father of American music", and pre-eminent 19th century songwriter. Scroll down for a first look at the cast in action!

Foster's songs - "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "Hard Times Come Again No More", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", and "Beautiful Dreamer" - remain popular over 150 years after their composition. "Hard Times" is set in New York's infamous Five Points during the Draft Riots of July 1863 when Foster was a resident. He died exactly six months later on January 13th, 1864, at the age of 37 with 38 cents in his pocket.

Having received critical and popular acclaim last season, Larry Kirwan's Stephen Foster musical 'Hard Times' will return to Off Broadway at the the cell, A Twenty First Century Salon (Founding Artistic Director, Nancy Manocherian), (338 West 23rd Street), opening Monday, January 13th (7PM) --- to commemorate the 150 anniversary of Mr. Foster's death. Directed by Kira Simring, choreographed by Joe Barros and produced by the cell, Hard Times will start preview performances on Thursday, January 9th (8PM).

Set in a saloon in Lower Manhattan's notorious Five Points in 1863, Hard Times combines the story of America's first great songwriter Stephen Foster and a neighborhood under siege and about to explode with ethnic frictions that will determine the destiny of contemporary New York. Through a re-imagining of Stephen Foster's songbook, combined with new music material by Mr. Kirwan, Hard Times explores New York City Civil War tensions with a modern musical and dramatic sensibility.

The Acting Company includes: Jed Peterson as Stephen Foster, Jennifer Lorae as Jane Foster, Almeria Campbell as Nelly Blythe, James Sasser as Michael Jenkins, Stephane Duret as Thomas Jefferson and John Charles McLaughlin as Owen Duignan.

The production features scenic and prop design by Dara Wishingrad; lighting design by Gertjan Houben; Orchestrations by Andrew Smithson; musical direction by Rona Siddiqui; Casting director is Jason Najjoum.

Hard Times will play a limited engagement from January 9 to February 2nd at the cell (338 West 23rd Street New York, NY 10011) with performances on Thurs. thru Sat. at 8 and Sundays at 3. There will be no performance on Sunday, January 19th. Tickets are $18 and will be available online at www.thecelltheatre.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the cell, half an hour prior to performance. Running Time: 120 minutes (with intermission).

Stephen Foster (Music) known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century. His songs - "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "Hard Times Come Again No More", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", and "Beautiful Dreamer" - remain popular over 150 years after their composition. He was a resident of New York's infamous Five Points during the Draft Riots of July 1863 and died exactly six months later on January 13th, 1864, at the age of 37 with 38 cents in his pocket.

Larry Kirwan (Playwright) is leader of the Irish-American rock band, Black 47. Black 47 has released fourteen CDs and appeared on Leno, Letterman and O'Brien. Kirwan has written fifteen plays and musicals, five of which were collected in the book Mad Angels. The best known, Liverpool Fantasy, has been produced twice Off-Broadway and at the Dublin Theatre Festival. He has written a memoir and two novels. He hosts and produces Celtic Crush for SiriusXM, and writes a weekly column for The Irish Echo. He has written the music and lyrics to Transport (book by Tom Keneally) which receives its world premiere at The Irish Repertory Theatre, NYC, in Feb. 2014.

Kira Simring (Director) is the Artistic Director of the cell, A Twenty 1st Century Salon ™, alongside Nancy Manocherian, Founding Artistic Director. Kira directs many of the cell's productions and is the resident director for The Center for Contemporary Opera's Atilier Series. She has developed and directed many new plays off Broadway and off-off Broadway, including "Guilty" at the Acorn Theater and "Blackout" at the Kirk Theatre. She has also directed Shakespeare regionally with New Village Arts Theatre in San Diego and Handel at the Connecticut Grand Opera. Kira earned her MFA in Directing at The Actors Studio Drama School of New School University where she received a Shubert Fellowship, and her BA in Anthropology at Smith College.

Since its inception in 2006,the cell, A Twenty First Century Salon (Nancy Manocherian, Founding Artistic Director) has been, and continues to be, an incubator for creative projects. Through its strong commitment to cultivate undiscovered artists,the cell has created residencies for diverse music, literary, and theatre groups. the cell is located in the heart of Chelsea, New York City. For more information, visit www.thecelltheatre.org.

Photo Credit: Steven Simring (unless otherwise noted)

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