Premiere of Body of an American To Feature Danny Wolohan and William Salyers; Bill Rauch Directs in OR

By Kenneth Jones
September 18, 2012

Portland Center Stage in Oregon will unveil the world premiere of The Body of an American, about a war photographer haunted by the spirit of the soldier whose body he photographed, Oct. 2-Nov. 11.



According to PCS, the drama asks, "What is the responsibility of bearing witness to an atrocious act?" Dan O'Brien's play is inspired in part by the book "Where War Lives" by Paul Watson. The play recently won the 2011 L. Arnold Weissberger Award.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director Bill Rauch directs the play, which officially opens Oct. 5. (The press night is Oct. 13.)

According to PCS notes, "War reporter Paul Watson has witnessed some of the most devastating scenes in modern history, and created perhaps the most disturbing image of modern warfare: the photograph of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. As the ghosts of the tragedies he's recorded bear down on him, his story catches the attention of playwright Dan O'Brien, who's battling ghosts of his own. In locations as varied as Kabul, Los Angeles and the Canadian High Arctic, the two men form a tentative friendship in a quest for absolution. The Body of an American is the story of their relationship, and the roles each take in helping the other process the responsibilities, and the damages, of bearing witness."

The cast includes Danny Wolohan as Dan O'Brien and William Salyers as Paul Watson. Wolohan was last seen at PCS in Shakespeare's Amazing Cymbeline, The Imaginary Invalid and the past four JAW Festivals. Salyers is making his PCS debut, and was recently seen onstage in the originating title role of Louis Slotin Sonata in Seattle and Off-Broadway, and Battle Hymn and Naked Before God at Circle X Theater in Los Angeles.

Playwright O'Brien's current projects include Theotokia/The War Reporter, an opera with composer Jonathan Berger and director Rinde Eckert, premiering at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University in 2013. Previous productions include The Cherry Sisters Revisited at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival, The House in Hydesville at Geva Theatre Center and more. He has served as a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, the inaugural Djerassi Fellow in Playwriting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and twice the Tennessee Williams Fellow at The University of the South.

The production team includes scenic and costume designer Chris Acebo; lighting designer James F. Ingalls; sound and projection designer Eamonn Farrell; and stage manager Jeremy Eisen.

For more on the production and the company, visit pcs.org.

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Portland Center Stage "inspires our community by bringing stories to life in unexpected ways." Established in 1988 as a branch of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, PCS became an independent theatre in 1994 and has been under the leadership of artistic director Chris Coleman since May 2000. The company presents a blend of classic, contemporary and original productions "in a conscious effort to appeal to the eclectic palate of theatregoers in Portland." PCS also offers a variety of education and outreach programs "for curious minds from six to 106, including discussions, classes, workshops and partnerships with organizations throughout the Portland metro area."

The Gerding Theater at the Armory houses a 599-seat Main Stage and the 200-seat black box Ellyn Bye Studio. It was the first building on the National Register of Historic Places, and the first performing arts venue, to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification. The Gerding Theater at the Armory opened to the public on Oct. 1, 2006. The capital campaign to fund the renovation of this hub for community artistic activity continues.