Conor McGuigan’s new series bounces Scranton’s history off the wall
by Tom Graham
“I love when anyone can learn without realizing that they are learning,” quipped actor turned Scranton historian Conor McGuigan, after a 10-minute informative lecture about the Native American influence throughout the city.
The odd thing about the conversation we had with McGuigan is that he wore a bright reddish-orange jumpsuit and a Mexican wrestler type mask while belting out historical facts about the Lenape tribe.
Well known for his involvement in the local theatre community, and as the former owner of Test Pattern, McGuigan has again turned his love for Scranton into another quirky, yet educational, project that will debut online as well on Electric City Television on Feb. 27. Behold! Scranton is an educational television series that McGuigan has developed as a way to express his love for the city of Scranton, as well as his vast knowledge of historical Scranton events delivered through comical skits.
“I love history,” McGuigan said. “I spent a good amount of time in the reference section of the library. My theatre company closed and I wanted to get involved in something new. This has been sitting on the back burner of my brain for a while.”
Behold! Scranton is, at its root, a history program. Every skit in the show has been painstakingly researched to make sure the show has the correct facts. The series aims to provide the audience with atypical historical facts about Scranton that McGuigan discovered in his research.
The first episode is divided into three segments showcasing three characters, all played by McGuigan. The first segment is a stop-motion animation piece involving talking dinosaurs and Leonard Katakeski, Behold! Scranton’s uncomfortable host who shakes in front of the camera, but somehow landed the job.
Another segment finds RANTO 50 (Regional Anthropological Narrator Transmographer of the Olden days) starring in a 10-minute documentary on the Native American experience in Scranton, which McGuigan found to be very limited.
The final running segment features Freddie, a tattered, yet spunky puppet graced with a good ol’ fashioned Scran’on accent. Freddie acts as Behold! Scranton’s knowledgeable tour guide taking you through numerous sections of Scranton and shining the spotlight on their quirks and landmarks.
McGuigan has very high hopes for the series. “I would like to do several episodes of Behold! Scranton,” he said. “I am doing this project out of my love for the city, and although it’s a lot of work, I have learned so much. I love history because it never ends and I think it’s important for people to realize their place in it.”
Behold! Scranton will premiere online at youtube.com/user/soyconor and on Electric City Television channel 19 on Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., Tuesday at 2 a.m. and Saturdays at 7 p.m.
A word with Leonard Katakeski
EC: How do you spell your last name?
LK: “K” as in Kevin. “A” is in Albert. “T” as in Tugboat. “A” is in Albert. “K” as in kinetic. “E” as in elephant. “S” as in Sysco. “K” as in Kevin. “I” as in Indian.
EC: What is your educational background?
LK: I graduated from, uh actually, uh Scranton Tech and went to the University of Scranton as well, but then I also have a degree from Johnson College because I wanted to learn a trade and I got an honorary degree from Lackawanna College and then I went down to Marywood and got an honorary degree there because I was in a play there once and also went to Keystone for an adults seminar and I learned how to pour bronze. I like to learn.
EC: How did you get involved in Behold! Scranton?
LK: I was down the Historical Society and my good friend Joan was down there and she said “Leonard?” and I said “yeah” and she said “we’re doin’ a little show.” I said “uh ohh.” She said “I can’t do it cause of my condition” and I said “ok, I am happy to help.” (Grunts). I get a little nervous in front of the camera. I guess I’m the on-air talent. I guess I have the face for it. I’ll do anything to help people learn.
EC: How important is it for you to share your love of this city?
LK: There is nothing better than when a young person learns something and if I have such a love and if I can show people that hey, you know what? Scranton is pretty cool. I think it’s nice, I love when….. What was the question again?
EC: Describe a typical day in the life of Mr. Katakeski.
LK: I wake up and I have my coffee. On Wednesdays and Fridays I meet the fellas. Then I like to peruse the newspapers at the reference section of the library, they all know me down there. I like to go downtown and look at the various statues. I like to walk around a lot. (Drifts off to sleep). I’m sorry. Then usually head home and I put on the Wheel Of Fortune.