If you do this, I will own you forever.

words that haunted Paul Watson

A single, stark photograph—of the body of an American soldier dragged from the wreckage of a Blackhawk helicopter through the streets of Mogadishu—reshaped the course of global events and won war photographer Paul Watson the Pulitzer Prize. Yet, he is haunted by that shutter click. Playwright Dan O’Brien, struggling with ghosts of his own, reaches out to Watson, and the two forge a friendship as they reckon with the traumas that have shaped their lives. In this gripping true story, the two explore the ethical and personal consequences of the photograph, as well as the interplay between political upheaval and the experience of trauma in an age saturated by images and information.

Dates & Times

DateTimeAdditional Information

Season Sponsors:
Bonfils-Stanton Foundation

Diana and Mike Kinsey
Shamos Family Foundation
The Shubert Foundation

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust

Season Patrons:
Elizabeth Steele
Carol E. Wolf
Serial Storytelling Sponsor:
Laura Cowperthwaite and LiveWork Denver
Platinum Show Sponsors:
Karolynn Lestrud
Susan Tucker
Joseph H. Thompson Fund
 Silver Snow Sponsors:
Richard and Joanne Akeroyd
David Price

Added Events & Experiences
Join Curious for in-person experiences that extend your understanding of this play and these issues.

Inside the Artists’ Mind: an in-person event with playwright Dan O’Brien and war reporter Paul Watson. November 18 at Venue 221. Tickets and more info here.

Photojournalism Masterclass with Paul Watson. November 18 at Curious. RSVP and info here.

Playwright Workshop with Dan O’Brien. November 17. SOLD OUT.

Post-Show Discussion with Dan O’Brien and Paul Watson. November 17 after the performance.

Post-Show Discussions. Following every performance after Opening (excl. closing), we host a post-show discussion to tackle the themes of the play and work together to develop ways to take newfound understanding into the world. Join us.

The Conflict in Somalia

Behind the Battle of Mogadishu– by Patrick J. Kiger. How A Peacekeeping Mission To Provide Relief Quickly Unraveled Into Chaos. A daring mission to snatch rebel leaders from the streets of Mogadishu goes disastrously wrong when two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters are shot down. Full article here.

Somalia: a history of events from 1950 to the present, in pictures- by Guardian Research Department. As leaders discuss the future of Somalia, we look at some of the key moments in modern history of a country transformed beyond recognition over the past four decades. Full article here.

Operation Restore Hope/Battle of Mogadishu– created by R. Snyder. Some of the factors that explain how what began as a peacekeeping mission in Somalia ended in a firefight. Full article here.

Denver Public Library Recommendations

A collection of resources related to The Body of an American.


Journalism by Joe Sacco

Joe Sacco is in a class all his own: part conflict-zone reporter, part underground comics artist and a groundbreaking visionary in both fields. Armed with a tape recorder and sketchbook, Sacco ventures into war zones the world over and captures the stories of the people who would otherwise be silenced. Sacco creates comics with all the emotional and cinematic skills of a documentary filmmaker, art that is also rigorous journalism. His 2012 book simply titled Journalism, collects eleven of his short-form comics dispatches and includes regions such as the Caucuses, Palestine, and Iraq and looks at issues such as the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean and the plight of the Untouchable caste in India.


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) Starring Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, and Martin Freeman, this is the epic tale of a journalist who left the comfort of her desk in New York City to tackle the tough job of on-camera reporting in war torn Afghanistan for three months. Based on the book about her personal experiences in 2003, we quickly learn that Kim Barker is completely unprepared for this assignment, not only the dangers of war itself but also the conditions of everyday life in Afghanistan. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot realistically confronts both the physical and emotional risks of war reporting while slicing the severity with Tina Fey’s humor and charm.


Shooting Ghosts : A U.S. Marine, A Combat Photographer, And Their Journey Back From War by Thomas J. Brennan and Finbarr O’Reilly – joint memoir by a Marine and a war photographer. They talk about the personal trauma of war, no matter if one is carrying a gun or carrying a camera. Another take on PTSD like Watson suffered after his career.


All i did was ask by Terry Gross

For her first collection, Terry has chosen more than three dozen timeless interviews that prove to be as lively on the page as they were on the radio. Her questions–probing yet sensitive–encourage revelations from figures as diverse as John Updike, Isabella Rossellini, Conan O’Brien, Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Cash, and Nicolas Cage. And in her introduction, the generally self-effacing host of Fresh Air does something she wouldn’t dream of doing on the air–she reveals a thing or two about herself.

Paul Watson

Journalist Paul Watson on Witnessing War- Heard on Fresh Air. An NPR interview in which Paul Watson describes his experiences as a war journalist. Listen here.

‘The Body of an American’ Visits Battle Zones of the Field and the Heart– by Rob Weinert-Kendt. Despite never seeing the play, Watson participates enthusiastically in talkbacks and interviews. Full article here. 

Paul Watson Interview- an interview reported as part of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Public Affair’s war correspondents course.



Dan O’Brien- playwright

Dan O’Brien, Playwright and Poet– Maxamoo’s Theater and Performance Podcast interviewing O’Brien. Listen here.

The Origins of The Body of an American- ColumbiaLearn. An interview with O’Brien.

Photojournalism and War Photography

A brief essay on the integrity of photojournalism. Read here. 

Reporting From the War Zone- by Nolan Peterson. Nolan Peterson is an American journalist with The Daily Signal, is one of few journalists permanently based in Ukraine. He writes about his experiences working for a small, nonprofit start-up news site covering a conflict perceived by many Americans as being less relevant than other global issues. Read his article here.

Overexposed: A Photographer’s War with PTSD- by Adam McCauley. Following the story of two New York Times photographers in Fallujah, this article explores the prevalence of PTSD among war photographers. Full article here.

Viewer or Voyeur? The morality of reportage photography- by Sean O’Hagan. From The Guardian, this article examines the ethics around photographing violence, particularly utilizing one example of a series of four photographs of an individual being stoned in Somalia. Warning graphic image. Full article here.

Stanley Greene, a War Photographer Who Stayed When Others Left- by Jon Lee Anderson. While the war photographer Stanley Greene knew the peril, his compulsion to document what people were experiencing would allow him no other course of action. Full article here.

A Photographer’s View of a Battle to Destroy ISIS- by Victor J. Blue. The New Yorker photographer Victor J. Blue writes on his experience photographing an elite police unit in Mosul, Iraq in the fall of 2016.  Full Article Here.

Cameristas by Ted Widmer. An opinion article on the origins of war photography. Full Article Here.

In Media

  • REVIEW: Examining wartime photography, “The Body of An American” finds haunting negatives

    “The Body of An American” is more than a disturbing look backward. The play considers the ongoing role of journalists, particularly war correspondents, and their peculiar remove from the reality of their subject. Are they crazy or altruistic or just craving the next adrenaline rush? And what happens to such journalists in a collapsing news industry? ...The result is a gutsy, thoroughly haunting production.

  • Review: The Body of and American at Curious Theatre Company

    Despite gruesome reminiscences of war and a depiction of post-traumatic stress disorder, the play has light moments and humor—mostly in the bantering of the two men. They form an unlikely friendship, partly because O’Brien (Sean Scrutchins), has demons of his own.

  • REVIEW: The Body of an American

    “The Body of An American” is unusual and unforgettable. It’s heavy, thoughtful, and deals with important stuff. Don’t go thinking Big Drama, just head in knowing you will spend time with two storytellers who are both seeking truth through their own unique prisms.

  • REVIEW: The Body of an American Is Ambitious but Unfocused

    These are huge, soul-searing topics, and Watson is a fascinating figure, a man who has worked in several war zones and written eloquently about his experiences.