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Diane Barnes sits with actors at a table for a read through of the new musical Sadie Calhoun at the Confederation Centre in August. (Charlottetown Festival)

The Confederation Centre of the Arts is workshopping a new Canadian musical based on the true story of an actress from the southern U.S. who toured Canada with her theatre company in the early 20th century.

Sadie Calhoun was written by the centre's playwright-in-residence, Diane Barnes.

Producing Canadian theatre is part of the Confederation Centre's mandate, but in recent years musical revues about Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly have been a big part of the summer line up.

"We need to produce the next great Canadian musical. That is our mandate," said associate artistic director Wade Lynch.

"We are always in search of what's going to do it for us."

Lynch said he instantly felt Sadie Calhoun was the right project for Confederation Centre.

"It's local, it's universal, it's feminist, it's got great characters and a broad story and fantastic music - we're really committed to this," he said.

For several nights in 1907, Sadie Calhoun performed her play at Charlottetown’s Opera House on Queen Street to sell-out crowds of more than 1,000 people a night.  Barnes discovered Calhoun in newspaper reviews from the period, and was inspired to write a musical about her.

The new musical will be shown in front of a test audience of invited guests on Tuesday. The audience will be giving feedback and suggesting changes.