Syd's historical pieces focus on the human stories in history. These hour-long performances can include a discussion of how the story came to be created and may also include a question-and-answer period. If you are interested in purchasing these stories, visit our store.
- The Summer of Treason: Philadelphia 1776
- In Philadelphia in 1776, fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence with a grim determination. They knew that if the colonies' ragtag army couldn't hold off the mightiest empire in the world, they would all be hanged. Philadelphia 1776: The Summer of Treason tells the story of how this improbable declaration came about, and how the simmering revolution affected the lives of eight Philadelphians: Benjamin Franklin, the most famous American in the world, and Thomas Paine, a failed corset maker; John Dickinson, a wealthy lawyer-politician, and Betsy Ross, a widowed seamstress; Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, a wealthy poet with poor taste in men, and Timothy Matlack, a fighting Quaker who had spent time in a debtor's prison; Jacob Duche, a fastidious minister and, and James Forten, a poor African-American teenager.
Historic Philadelphia, Inc. and Once Upon a Nation commissioned Syd and his wife Adrienne to write this story. (2005)
- Twelve Wheels on Mars: The 2004 Mars Exploration Mission
- If you watched the late-night news on January 3, 2004, you learned that the first of two NASA rovers had landed successfully on Mars. You probably saw images of scientists and engineers applauding, shouting, and hugging each other. NASA and the International Storytelling Center commissioned Syd to write and tell the story behind that celebration. He was at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, to witness the historic landing, and he interviewed the principal scientists and engineers involved in the project. What emerges in Twelve Wheels on Mars is the human story behind the most successful Mars mission in history. Syd's story portrays the passion of the people involved and depicts the pressures they felt as they built and sent two rovers on a seven-month, 300,000,000-mile trip to Mars.
NASA and the International Storytelling Center commissioned Syd to write and tell this story. (2004)
- The Dead Sea Scrolls: Pieces of an Ancient Puzzle
- In 1947 a Bedouin shepherd threw a rock into a cave. He heard the sound of pottery breaking and hoped the clay jar would contain treasure. What it contained was infinitely more valuable than gold or silver; he had found the Dead Sea Scrolls. Syd tells five stories explaining why the scrolls were hidden and the details of their chance discovery, what life was like for the Essenes, the adventure of how the scrolls came to be housed in Israel's Shrine of the Book, whether one scroll was really a treasure map, and how scholars painstakingly pieced together more than 100,000 fragments from at least 500 scrolls. (2003)
The Van Andel Museum Center in Grand Rapids, MI commissioned these stories. (2003)
- One Righteous Man: The Story of Raoul Wallenberg
- Syd's story chronicles the courageous efforts of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish Christian, who traveled to Hungary in 1944 on an extraordinary mission: to save the Jews of Budapest. He lost his own freedom in the effort, but historians credit Wallenberg with saving 100,000 Jews. Entwined with his tale is the story of Helen Yacobovitch, Syd's great aunt, who was part of the persecuted population in Budapest. (2001)
- Intrepid Birdmen: Fighter Pilots of World War I
- People had been flying planes for little more than a decade when World War I began. The pilots who fought in that war were like astronauts, soaring into unknown territory. Their average age was twenty. Using the diaries and letters from more than thirty different pilots, Syd depicts the glory of soaring into the wild blue yonder as well as the horror of fighting in the air.
Commissioned by the Smithsonian. (1993)
- The Johnstown Flood of 1889
- On May 31, 1889, a dam broke in the mountains above Johnstown, Pennsylvania, precipitating one of the worst flood disasters in U.S. history. Borrowing from a first-person account, Syd tells how a six-year old girl and her family struggled to survive the thirty-foot wave. He also recounts the generous outpouring of aid that helped the people of Johnstown restore their city. This story has special significance in the light of the destruction Hurricanes Katrina and Rita unleashed in 2005.
Commissioned by the city of Johnstown for the centennial commemoration of the flood. (1989)