Space Age Storyteller Jay O’Callahan Comes to WC

By John Curran 

Elm Staff Writer

With the recent discovery of water on the surface of Mars, interest in NASA and space travel has been revitalized.

On Oct. 22, storyteller Jay O’Callahan brought a live recital of his NASA-commissioned story, “Forged in the Stars” to campus. The event took place in Hotchkiss Hall.

A Massachusetts native, O’Callahan has been a full time storyteller since the late 1970s. He has performed at a number of prestigious events and venues including the National Storytelling Fesitval and the Lincoln Center in New York.

O’Callahan’s story “Forged in the Stars” was commissioned by NASA in 2009 as a celebration of the administration’s 50th anniversary. The story is multifaceted and focuses on the broader legacy of NASA by fusing multiple storylines into a cohesive celebration of NASA, and its discoveries. Characters such as J.C. High Eagle, a Native American NASA engineer, Christa McAuliffe, a Massachusetts school teacher, along with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  and Harvard University are some of the individuals and locations involved in the story.

Prior to his performance, O’Callahan discusses the processes that went into the creation of the story and the swirl of suggestions from others. “Now let me tell you how the story began,” he said. “Eight years ago, I was sitting in a conference room in NASA headquarters in Washington DC – I was excited, because I had been commissioned to write a story about NASA’s 50th anniversary. Someone said, ‘Do a story about the International Space Station.’ Somebody else said, ‘Whatever you do, you should do a story about people in space, and robots in space.’”

O’Callahan revealed that extensive research, including time spent reading over 40 books, was crucial in discovering what approach to take. He also interviewed NASA staff, employees,a nd directors.

O’Callahan was brought to Washington College at the behest of Professor of Philosophy Kevin Brien and the event was sponsored by the William James Forum and the Department Philosophy and Religion.

For those who missed O’Callahan’s telling of “Forged in the Stars,” additional information along with a video recording of the performance can be found at

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