Thursday, March 08, 2012

Jan O'Callahan, Frankfort, Marcyh 9 - not to be missed.

Commissioned by NASA

for its 50 Anniversary

Master Storyteller Jay O'Callahan's

Forged in The Stars

The Human Spirit


Art and Science

Imagination and Technology

Grand Theatre Frankfort, Kentucky

Friday, March 9

7:30 PM

Admission $15 — $18 — $20

For tickets call 502 352-7469 M-F 10:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m.

or online at

Sponsored by

NASA Kentucky of the University of Kentucky

The Grand Theatre - Frankfort

A Paul Elsey Roots Music and Storytelling Event

For more information about Jay O'Callahan and his art go to

Forged in the Stars: the NASA Story

By Jim Carroll

In 30 years as a master storyteller, Jay O’Callahan has developed an understandable confidence in his ability to mold a story that enlightens and entertains an audience. He has, after all, reached the top of his avocation – appearing at prestigious venues such as the Abbey Theater in London, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and even at the Olympics.

But even such a seasoned weaver of tales was a bit taken aback when he received a call in 2006 from an official for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with an intriguing proposition. The 50th anniversary of NASA was approaching in 2008. Officials wanted him to tell the story of NASA.

Was he intimidated by the assignment?

“Yes, I was,” O’Callahan said in a recent telephone interview, in advance of his Friday 7:30 p.m. presentation at Frankfort’s Grand Theatre. “I don’t think I would have taken it on years ago, but I’ve been doing this work for over 30 years, and I thought it would come together, and it did.”

However daunting the task would be, O’Callahan saw a great opportunity to interview many of the brave, dedicated men and women who led the United States on a quest that reaches beyond our solar system.

Over the ensuing year and a half, O’Callahan read dozens of books about space exploration and conducted interviews with countless scientists, engineers, astronauts and other NASA officials around the country.

He settled on three figures to illustrate various aspects of NASA’s history – a Cherokee from a modest background who became a leading NASA engineer; Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon; and Christa McAuliffe, who perished in the Challenger explosion and was to have been the first teacher in space.

Spirit of NASA

The spirit of NASA emerged as O’Callahan interviewed the young men and women who guided NASA to the moon and beyond.

“How do I dramatically convey this spirit?” O’Callahan asked himself. One day, the solution occurred to him – invent a fictional couple that struggles with communication, with commitment, and with a shared vision.

With that revelation, O’Callahan gave life to Kate DeCordova, an engineering student at Northeastern University, and Jack Carver, a doctoral student in astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their ups and downs as a couple would help illustrate the inevitable growing pains, the triumphs, and the tragedies of NASA in its first five decades of existence.

With this dramatic framework, O’Callahan began writing the NASA story. The presentation would include some of the most historic moments of NASA – the Apollo mission in which man first walked on the moon, the two Voyager spacecraft and their continuing flight to the edge of the Solar System and beyond, and the horrific Challenger accident.

He entitled the 75-minute presentation “Forged in the Stars.” In the fall of 2009, he premiered the presentation to a large audience of engineers and scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Filled the house

The JPL staff filled the auditorium seats, and O’Callahan immediately sensed that the audience was riveted. At the conclusion, the audience gave him a standing ovation.

The story of NASA has not been concluded, O’Callahan said. What will the next 15 years bring?

“We need to work toward the immediate goal of going to Mars to find biological life,” he said. “I also wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 50 years that we discover life on another planet.”

“Forged in the Stars” is sponsored by NASA Kentucky, associated with the University of Kentucky, and is a Paul Elsey Roots Music/Storytelling Event.

Art exhibit

Sallie Lanham’s exhibition of watercolor and oil paintings entitled “Water Symphony” will be open during the performance as it is for all Grand programs and at other times by contacting the box office.

The exhibit, which is designed to promote awareness of water – both its beauty and fragility – continues through March.


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