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Telling the story of “The Steel”

Jay O'Callahan visited the Bethlehem Steel site back in 1999.

Master storyteller Jay O'Callahan is no stranger to Bethlehem. In the mid-1990s, Deborah Sacarakis, director of programs and outreach for the Zoellner Arts Center, commissioned O’Callahan to create a story about the City of Bethlehem and the steel industry.

Over the years, O’Callahan has been telling tales throughout the world at renowned theaters such as Lincoln Center and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, and since completing Pouring the Sun in 1999, he’s been telling the story of South Bethlehem to theater-goers across the country.

This weekend, O’Callahan will bring his one-man show back to Lehigh where this tale was first told. On Sunday, November 16 at 7 p.m., O’Callahan will perform Pouring the Sun at Zoellner’s Diamond Theater. The story, which explores the experience of Bethlehem Steel workers and their families in the early 20th century, was spun from interviews with steelworkers, historians, engineers, a former president of Bethlehem Steel, waitresses and professors—to name just a few. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Zoellner Arts Center.

Pouring the Sun is a brilliant chronicle of Bethlehem’s history and particularly that of the city’s South Side,” says Sacarakis. “As the Third Street Casino and Entertainment complex moves toward completion, the face of the South Side stands to change considerably. Pouring the Sun is a dramatic tribute to the past on which this future is built. It is a story as relevant and valuable today as it was during its premiere.”

Prior to the performance, on Saturday, November 15, from 2 to 5 p.m., O’Callahan will conduct a workshop entitled "Creativity through Storytelling." Limited space is available. Call (610) 758-2787 for more information.

Also, on Monday, November 17, Lehigh’s South Side Initiative will welcome O’Callahan to discuss “How Pouring the Sun Was Made.” O’Callahan will join Sacarakis and Bridget George, co-founder of Bethlehem’s Touchstone Theater, in Linderman Library 200 at 10:30 a.m. to talk about the process of making art about the men and women who made steel and created a community.

Then, at 1 p.m., a group of local artists will join O’Callahan for a conversation about some of the vibrant works of art they have created in recent years that explore the dreams and tragedies, the conflicts and aspirations of our community, past and present. Lucy Gans, Bill George, Jennie Gilrain, Kashi Johnson, Mark McKenna, and Doug Roysden will share their experience as painters, sculptors, actors, directors, producers and puppeteers who have created community through art and helped us to understand the place in which we live. Lunch will be provided between the Monday sessions.

O’Callahan’s visit is sponsored by the South Side Initiative, ArtsLehigh, Zoellner Arts Center, and the Lehigh Humanities Center.

--Bill Doherty and Tricia Long

Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2008

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