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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

'Point of Pittsburgh' production to honor city's unsung heroes

By Marylynne Pitz
Published: June 1, 2009

In the colorful panorama of Pittsburgh's history, athletes, wealthy industrialists and brilliant inventors often steal the spotlight.

But on Wednesday night, Pittsburghers can celebrate other players who left their mark on this region, from Native Americans like Guyasuta, abolitionists such as Martin Delany and the teenage women who struck for better wages and conditions at the cotton mills on the North Side in the 19th century.

"We're finally singing to the unsung heroes," said Lynne Squilla, a Mount Washington woman who is producing a show called "The Point of Pittsburgh," that features dramatic readings, live music and historic images.

"The Point of Pittsburgh" will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the assembly room of the William Pitt Union, 3959 Fifth Ave., Oakland.

Readings are from "The Point of Pittsburgh," a history of the city written by Charles McCollester, who recently retired from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he was a professor of industrial and labor relations.

The book was published last year to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the city's naming by Gen. John Forbes in November 1758.

The show recounts the deeds of common people who acted with uncommon courage.

"There were a lot of everyday, heroic, hard-working people who put themselves on the line and made great things happen," Ms. Squilla said.

The 1 1/2-hour production features short readings by state Sen. Jim Ferlo, Pittsburgh Council President Doug Shields, labor leaders, actors, artists, musicians, historians and local television personalities.

A live band will play original music composed by Mike Stout and a series of historic images will be projected on a screen. Paul Carosi, who works for IBM, put together the visual presentation, Ms. Squilla said.

In some ways, Ms. Squilla said, "Pittsburgh was a fantastic place to live, and in other ways, it was a real hell hole."

With history, she said, "It's always a question of who gets to tell the story."

In this show, she added, "The environment gets to speak. This place got pretty brutalized in that big push for being an industrial leader."

The show was presented last November at Carnegie Music Hall.

This time around, Ms. Squilla said, "We were asked to do it for the Working Class Studies Conference," which starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday. The conference is being held at the University of Pittsburgh and sponsored by Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences and IUP's Labor Center. For more information about the conference, visit the www.workingclassstudies.pitt.edu.

Tickets are $20 for the public, $10 for students, senior citizens and the unemployed. Admission can be paid at the door or reservations can be made at www.pittsburghfoodbank.org.

No paper tickets will be issued. Proceeds benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest.

Correction: Original music for the show was composed by Mike Stout. He was misidentified in a previous version of this story.