(8th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)
“You gotta come on out . . . it’s time to go.”
(go to min. 1:20:50)
“So come on . . . let’s go!”
In Steelbound’s riveting conclusion (go to min. 1:20:50), Prometheus is talked — but, more persuasively — sung, danced, and chanted down from his — we learn — self-shackled post on top that hulking dormant remnant of the once thriving Bethlehem Steel.
Throughout the play he has resisted entreaties:
“Isn’t there someone you could apologize to?”
“It won’t do any good to tear at the wounds.”
“Isn’t there something that can set you free?”
“They [dead steelworkers] never asked you to bury yourself with their bones.”
It is the brotherhood of plant workers that first cracks the sullen spell that Prometheus has cast upon himself.
For the history of Bethlehem Steel is not just the planes, guns, bridges, moon rockets, and skyscrapers it produced.
The history of Bethlehem Steel is a “history of fellowship, of care,” a history of “the people who stood next to you,” who “would watch your back” . . . who “would risk their lives to save yours” — a history of relationship, of community.
It’s the common sense of these people that beckons Prometheus:
“Which story are you going to be telling yourself today . . . the one about the steel mill that accomplished things that no one could ever have imagined possible or the one about the steel mill that closed down and ended a way of life?”
“Some people are afraid that you undercut the achievement if you acknowledge the tragedy. I don’t think so.”
“Just because you have the right to be angry doesn’t mean you have to be angry every day.”
It’s their mill metaphysics that beckons Prometheus:
“This place was the body, but we were the soul. . . . Don’t you tell me that the soul can’t go on after the body is cold and lifeless. Don’t you even think of telling me that.”
It’s their sincerely seductive “Come on, brother” that beckons Prometheus.
But it’s the chorus — rather the assemblage of the three choruses — men, women, children — that provides the finishing touch.
A single mournful, almost dirge-like voice is quickly joined by others gradually swelling upward in ever-pulsing tempo, ending in a rapid-fire burst.
The static, seated, separated companies rise, move rhythmically, change positions, join together in hand-linked-to-hand concentric circles around Prometheus, chanting, among other things, “You gotta come on out . . . it’s time to go.”
Emotional energy impossible to explain in words here finally frees Prometheus from the captivity of his past.
It was beautiful,
It was beautiful,
I was happy when I worked here,
I didn’t think I’d ever leave,
but here I go
And with a “So, come on . . . let’s go,” Steelbound ends with Prometheus, and, in fact, the entire company, frozen in this exiting posture, frozen in the first step of forward motion, as the stage goes dark.
That was the cultural moment twenty years ago.
Bethlehem City facing an uncertain life after Bethlehem Steel.
Now the question is: