The Origin of Story of the Century

Story of the Century

Set in 1902, Story of the Century is an original musical about Burrell Cannon, the inventor of the Ezekiel Airship.  From his small town in Pittsburg, Texas, Cannon invented and flew the Ezekiel Airship a year before the Wright Brothers’ inaugural powered and manned flight in December 1903.  Combining historic events with fictional characters, Story of the Century imagines what it might have been like to live during this momentous time when Teddy Roosevelt was president, Women’s Suffrage and Temperance were changing the nation, and inventions such as the telegraph, typewriter, phonograph, escalators, and horseless carriages would change the way we live forever.

Based on articles published in the Dallas Morning News and Scientific American, Burrell Cannon reveals that his inspiration for creating the Ezekiel Airship came from biblical passages from the Old Testament.  The Book of Ezekiel describes the prophet flying in a craft powered by “wheels within wheels.”  Burrell was obsessed with the revelation of the design and function of the Ezekiel Airship and studied it for over 17 years.  By 1902, he had drawn up plans for the Ezekiel Airship; formed the Ezekiel Airship Manufacturing Company, selling shares for $25 each; and was building the Airship in a foundry in Pittsburg, Texas.

Was Burrell Cannon a revolutionary inventor, a visionary prophet, or a misguided dreamer? This is the story that local newspaper reporter, Elmer Baker, hopes to discover in writing “Story of the Century.”  What he reveals is that many people have hopes and dreams for the new 20th century.  Ivey Compton, a schoolmistress, moves to Pittsburgh with hope of educating children of all backgrounds and working for women’s suffrage.  Lucy Thorsell, wife to the primary investor in Ezekiel Airship, believes in the Temperance Movement and works toward establishing the 21st Amendment.  Oliver and June Perry, an African-American couple are buying into the dream of the airship and hoping to build a new life for themselves and their family.

With a cast of remarkable characters – both historic and fictional – the musical captures the spirit of the 1900s with rollicking melodies, social consciousness, and heart. The musical was written by Texas native and local history buff David Hill with additional music and arrangements by Sarah Hill,  Chris McCoy is directing the musical, Marybeth Sorrell is the production manager, and Brant Challacombe is the music director.  The musical features a cast of Kansas City talent.  This one-act version of Story of the Century is adapted from a full-length musical and culminates in the long-awaited flight of the Ezekiel Airship.

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