Sept. 23, 2010
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer
A new theater production from Northern Ireland is coming to the Clayton Center for the Arts to say “Fair Faa Ye, USA,” or “Hello, America.”
“Fair Faa Ye, USA” is a one-act play that looks at the links between Northern Ireland, Scotland and Appalachia that have developed over the last 400 years. The play highlights the cultural legacy of the Ulster-Scots, or what is commonly known as the Scots-Irish population.
On Oct. 8 and 9, there will be two free performances at the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Haslam Family Flex Theatre. Both performances start at 8 p.m.
The play tells the story of Billy Wilson, a rising high school football star with a shot at a college scholarship – but the results from his history finals are not what they need to be. Billy’s history tutor gives him a final chance to improve his grade for the year, and his task is to investigate his own family history. Billy doesn’t know where to start, but the arrival of characters from the past starts to give Billy a new perspective on himself and his cultural background.
The play has a few familiar names, all from an Ulster-Scots background and descent. Characters such as Davy Crockett and President Woodrow Wilson, whose roots are well known in helping to forge the American nation that we know today, appear during the play, but there are also a few familiar names from Scotland and Ulster, such as poet Robert Burns, that add their own stories.
Three actors portray all of the roles in this fast-paced, whistle-stop tour of 400 years of history and culture. A Q&A session with Jonathan Burgess, writer and director of the production, will follow each performance.
“The show is a retrospective of 400 years of history, and the job of showing that timeline in just over an hour is a tough one, because the Ulster-Scots have taken so many diverse paths into America,” Burgess said. “What we look at is one of those paths through major characters and events pertaining to the culture over that time.”
The production, which is sponsored by The Ulster-Scots Agency and Tourism Ireland, is scheduled to appear in five U.S. locations this fall: Washington, D.C.; Staunton, Va.; Radford, Va.; Berea, Ky.; and Maryville, Tenn.
The company that is staging the show is from Londonderry in Northern Ireland. The show is an adaptation of its original show, “Fair Faa Ye,” which looked at last 400 years of the Ulster-Scots culture in Northern Ireland. The next logical step for the company was a show that included the American aspect of the culture.
The newest production is seeking to introduce, or reintroduce, to an American audience what many people might not realize is an aspect of their own cultural history and make-up, according to Burgess.
“There are approximately 40 million people in the United States today that would say they were of ‘Irish’ extraction, but of that number over 25 million are from the Ulster-Scots, or Scots-Irish, tradition,” Burgess said. “The culture is known as the Ulster-Scots culture as opposed to Scots-Irish, as Ulster is the region of the island of Ireland where these people originate from.”
Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state‘s third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2012 semester was 1,093.