Explore legend of John Henry at August Wilson Center

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Some myths are based on true stories. Such is the case of the main character in “JH: Mechanics of a Legend.” John Henry is an African-American tall tale character, whose story is rooted in the dawn of a new nation and the American machine age. His legacy lives on as a mighty railroad man who competed against a steam drill before he “laid down his hammer and died.” His fabled hammer was picked up by his steel-driving woman, Polly Ann.

John Henry’s story remains in early American minstrel songs. The “John Henry Song” has been covered by the likes of Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen.

Created by the Pittsburgh-based Hiawatha Project, “JH: Mechanics of a Legend” combines the language of mechanics, ballads and historical records to explore the legend of John Henry. The show runs Feb. 9 to 18 at the August Wilson Center, Pittsburgh. Tickets are $36.75, $31.75 in advance.

— Sally Quinn

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