Long before Bardstown, Kentucky was known as the Bourbon Capital of the World, it became home to the Commonwealth’s first State Park. My Old Kentucky Home State Park featured an amphitheater that was constructed to become the home of The Stephen Foster Story, an outdoor symphonic drama written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and humanitarian Paul Green. This story created in the 1950s and set in the 1850s is as timely as ever, delighting audiences with a surprising relevance that shines a spotlight on American History, Music History and African American History with powerful vocal performances, lively dance and stunning costumes.
Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) wrote the song My Old Kentucky Home, a ballad that would eventually become the state song of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Inspired by the Kentucky farmland that was home to his cousin John Rowan (President Polk’s Ambassador to Italy), Foster created a memorable melody and touching lyric that serves as The Stephen Foster Story’s connection to the tree covered land where the amphitheater sits, welcoming audiences each summer to a beautiful and poignant theatrical production under a starlit sky. In addition to the state song, Foster is responsible for many other well-known songs like Beautiful Dreamer, Camptown Races, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, and Hard Times Come Again No More. The performance features more than 50 songs, performed by a professional cast of actors, singers and dancers. Film and TV actor Moses Gunn and Broadway’s Tony winning actor Christian Borle are among the many who have found stardom after beginning their career onstage in Bardstown. Each summer the performance features cast members from across the U.S., as well as talented Kentuckians.
Following a shopping day in Bardstown, a visit to a bourbon distillery, a train ride or a dinner at one of the community’s many family-operated restaurants, The Stephen Foster Story is a perfect way to complete the day. You’ll end the evening with a cherished memory and a song in your heart. Guests visiting on Saturday afternoons can experience a new twist on this historic show with Songs of Stephen Foster – a one-hour indoor production featuring narration and thrilling new arrangements of Foster’s tunes. Both shows offer a chance to immerse yourself in beautiful music, dance and costumes woven together with a thread of American History. Pair this experience with a tour of the mansion at My Old Kentucky Home, a visit to Bardstown’s Civil War Museum or the Bardstown African American Heritage Museum to place our celebration of history in full context. For more than 60 years the amphitheater has served as a summer home to this cherished live musical production and the legacy continues. The sun shines bright on My Old Kentucky Home!