NEPA Scene Staff

Lackawanna Historical Society presents story of mining ‘Labor Priest’ in Scranton play on Jan. 30

Lackawanna Historical Society presents story of mining ‘Labor Priest’ in Scranton play on Jan. 30
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From a press release:

As part of the annual January celebration of Anthracite Mining Heritage Month, the Lackawanna Historical Society will present an introductory Lackawanna County premiere of the one-act play “For the Least of Them.”

The performance will be presented to a limited live audience at the society’s headquarters, the Catlin House (232 Monroe Ave., Scranton), on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 2 p.m. The show will also be live streamed through Electric City Television.

Written by K.K. Gordon, the play offers a glimpse into the private thoughts and prayers of the area’s “Labor Priest,” Rev. John J. Curran, during the Anthracite Strike of 1902. As the founding pastor of Holy Saviour Church in Wilkes-Barre in 1895, Curran played an important role in the strike, supporting the striking miners, counseling United Mine Workers of America president John Mitchell, and acting as a trusted confidant of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose decision to set up a neutral commission to intervene in a labor dispute marked a major change in how the U.S. government dealt with labor, which up until this point acted as strikebreakers siding with management over labor.

Gordon is a proud Scrantonian, poet, author, and actor who became intrigued by Curran’s story when he saw Gary Anderson’s critically acclaimed one-man play “Clarence Darrow’s Search for Justice” at the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton in 2010. Anderson went on to play Curran in an early reading of “For the Least of Them.”

“Putting this together was a remarkable experience. I knew nothing about Father Curran when I met Gary. After working with him on one of his Darrow plays, we went looking for Father Curran’s grave and didn’t come close to finding it. But on the way, he said, ‘I’d really like to have somebody write a play about Father Curran,’ and I said, ‘I do more than turn the lights on!’” Gordon recalled with a laugh in a 2011 interview.

“I’m proud of it. I felt I got to know this man very well to the point where I was having nightmares about losing my mule in the mines. … My connection with reality was gone for about two months.”

For this show, Curran will be portrayed by Plains native Scott Rave under the direction of Art Walsh. The one-man, one-act performance is adapted from a full-script play. The society hopes to present the full version in the near future.

Seating is limited and tickets are $15 (or $10 for LHS members). All attendees are asked to wear face masks and follow all state and local guidelines regarding COVID-19.

For more information about the program or to make reservations, contact the Lackawanna Historical Society at 570-344-3841 or email

Founded in 1886 as the Lackawanna Institute of History and Science, the Lackawanna Historical Society provides the community with a record of local history through its museum and library collections, exhibits, and programs. In 1942, from the bequest of George H. Catlin, the society established its permanent home at Catlin’s 1912 residence at 232 Monroe Avenue in Scranton.

In 1965, Lackawanna County designated the Lackawanna Historical Society as the official county historical society, and the society continues to serve the county as a center for local history resources. It receives funding from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Catlin Memorial Trust, Lackawanna County, and memberships.

Photo of Gary Anderson as Rev. John J. Curran by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene