Dan O'Brien's The Body of an American to Play Theater J

Mar 30, 2016
The Body of an American

"If you do this, I will own you forever." Canadian photojournalist Paul Watson is haunted by these words he heard as a soldier lay dying. As one of the last remaining journalists in Somalia, Watson overhears that a Black Hawk helicopter has been shot down over the streets of Mogadishu and a mob is dragging the body of a United States soldier through the streets. Watson risks his life to snap the photo of the corpse that would win him a Pulitzer Prize and would spur the reshaping of American foreign policy in the region. This engrossing and provocative play tells the true story of the extraordinary friendship between Watson and playwright Dan O'Brien, who struggles with ghosts of his own. The two forge a friendship as they reckon with the traumas that have shaped their lives.

A playwright, poet, and librettist, O'Brien's plays include The Cherry Sisters Revisited, The Dear Boy, The Voyage of the Carcass, Moving Picture, The House in Hydesville, and Key West. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, O'Brien wrote the libretti for Jonathan Berger's Visitations: Theotokia and The War Reporter, two chamber operas. O'Brien's most recent collection of poetry, New Life, was published this winter by CB Editions in London. His debut poetry collection, entitled War Reporter, received the 2013 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection and was shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

"Dan O'Brien's The Body of an American is an urgent, gripping, and fascinating exploration of an often-untold story of the trauma of war-the story of the reporters who cover it," said Theater J Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr. "This is an important play for DC audiences to experience, and I'm thrilled that we'll be producing its much-anticipated regional premiere at Theater J." The Body of An American will be directed by Jose Carrasquillo, who directed the Helen Hayes Award-Winning production of After the Fall at Theater J. Carrasquillo has worked in DC at GALA Hispanic Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Round House, Woolly Mammoth, Signature, WSC Avant Bard, Teatro de la Luna, Source, and The IN-Series.

The cast of The Body of An American features Eric Hissom as Paul Watson and Thomas Keegan as Dan O'Brien. Hissom has performed at Theater J in Aaron Posner's Life Sucks, and has been seen regionally in The Tempest at American Repertory Theater; The 39 Steps at Seattle Rep, La Jolla Playhouse and The National Tour; and A Midsummer Night's Dream and Arcadia at Folger Theatre. Keegan most recently performed in The Glass Menagerie at Ford's Theatre and has been seen in Women Laughing Alone With Salad, and Zombie: The American at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, as well as Fool for Love at Round House Theatre. These actors will play over 15 characters, each with a different accent.

The artistic team includes production designer Marie Schneggenburger, lighting designer Dan Covey, projection designer Tim McLoraine, and sound designer Brendon Vierra.

Several post-show discussions will accompany the run of The Body of an American, providing a forum for audience and community members to discuss a number of important issues raised by the play. On May 15, Theater J will partner with The Newseum, an interactive museum of news and journalism on Pennsylvania Avenue, to present Pulitzer Prize-Winning photojournalist Paul Watson in conversation with Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down. The event, at the Newseum, is free with admission to the museum.