Paul Watson and Dan O'Brien: A Timeline

"I knew I wanted to write about him, but I didn't know how, or whether he'd let me. But I did something I'd never done before; I wrote to a stranger, and he wrote back."
- Dan O'Brien


Playwright Dan O'Brien and photojournalist Paul Watson began e-mails exchanges in 2007, eventually leading up to a meeting in the Arctic Circle in 2010. As you will see in the play, the event that inspired Dan's first e-mail to Paul occurred 14 years prior. Here is a detailed timeline of the events expressed in The Body of an American.

1987 - Paul Watson begins working for The Toronto Star in Canada.

1993 - Paul clicks the shutter in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Battle of Mogadishu was fought
          in October, 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia, between US forces and Somali militiamen
          loyal to the self-proclaimed president-to-be Mohamed Farrah Aidid. A US Army force
          in Mogadishu (Delta Force) attempted to seize two of Aidid’s lieutenants during a
          meeting in the city. Shortly after the assault began, Somali militia and armed civilian
          fighters shot down two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The battle resulted in 18 deaths,
          80 wounded, and one helicopter pilot captured among the US raid party and rescue
                                                                                forces. American sources estimate between 1,500 and 3,000 Somali casualties,
                                                                                including civilians.

1994 - Paul reports from Rwanda. In Rwanda, 1994 there was a mass slaughter of Tutsi and
          moderate Hutu (two African ethnic groups of the African Great Lakes region) by
          members of the Hutu majority. During the approximate 100-day period from April 7
          to mid-July, an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, constituting
          as much as 20% of the country's total population and 70% of the Tutsi then living in
          Rwanda. The genocide was planned by members of the core political elite known as
          the akazu, many of whom occupied positions at top levels of the national government.

          Paul's friend Kevin Carter, a South African photojournalist, commits suicide at the age
          of 33. Carter was a recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph depicting
          the famine in the Sudan (Pictured).
         
             Paul is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his photograph.


1995 -
Paul starts seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Grinker.
        
1998 - Paul leaves The Star to work for the LA Times.

2001 - September 11 attacks in New York City.
          Paul interviews Abdul Haq, who is killed a month later. Haq was an Afghan commander
          who fought against the Soviets and Afghan communists during the Soviet-Afghan War
          in the 1980s. He was executed by the Taliban in October 2001 while trying to create
          a popular uprising against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the wake of September 11.

2004 - Paul reports on the Battle for Mosul in Iraq (Pictured). The Battle for Mosul was fought during the Iraq War in 2004 for the capital of the
          Ninawa Governorate in northern Iraq.  It occurred concurrently with fighting in Fallujah.

2006 - Paul speaks to Staff Sargeant William David Cleveland, Jr.'s brother on the phone.
          Dan O'Brien begins his fellowship at Princeton University.

2007 - Paul's book Where War Lives, is published.
          Paul is interviewed on Fresh Air
          (Pictured).
          Dan e-mails Paul, they continue to e-mail
          for the next three years.

 

2010 - Dan and Paul meet in the Arctic.
          Dan develops The Body of an American at The Playwrights' Center in Little Mogadishu.
          The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis is sometimes called “Little Mogadishu.” 
          It's center of the nation’s largest concentration of Somalis.


2012 - The Body of an American premieres at Portland Center Stage (Pictured).

2014 - The Body of an American is produced by Gate and Royal & Derngate Theatres in UK

2015 - The Body of an American produced by the Wilma.


Content for this timeline was developed by the Wilma's Education Department for THE BODY OF AN AMERICAN EDUCATION GUIDE. The full Education Guide can be accessed here.

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