Long Days

Dan O'Brien

Summer 2018

Characters: Two play every role here: an actor around forty to play Dan most of the time, and an actor close to sixty to mostly play Paul. The younger of these two has the first line of the play, and with each new character-heading they alternate. The right-hand column contains suggestions for photographs and video to be projected somewhere prominent onstage, as well as suggested light and sound.


Setting: These scenes are set in Hollywood during the annus horribilis of 2016. Scenes previous (and after) tell the true story of the playwright’s treatment for cancer in the wake of his wife’s treatment for cancer, while his friend the war reporter Paul Watson, whose 1993 photograph of the body of an American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, won him a Pulitzer Prize, sojourns in Syria. Together playwright and war reporter concoct a plan to sell a “prestige” TV drama about western journalists in Syria. This play requires only a unit set: a version of this photo of Mohammed Mohiedin Anis in his home in Aleppo. No props. One costume for each actor.


After the end of the world
after my death
I found myself in the middle of life
I created myself
constructed life
people animals landscapes

this is a table I was saying
this is a table
on the table are lying bread a knife
the knife serves to cut the bread
people nourish themselves with bread

one should love man
I was learning by night and day
what one should love
I answered man


—Różewicz, translated by Miłosz


Part I


Dan:  Thank you for these pages, Paul. Normally
pitching is prose. Conversation, really.
But yeah, it sure is fun to imagine.
I had hoped to finish our pitch before
going under. Aware that surgery
carries with it the possibility
of not waking up. Uncontrollable
bleeding. Heart failure, stroke. Clots. Infection
in the days after. In the days before
I start anxiously googling myself,
to somehow assert I’m alive, and find,
instead of my author’s photo, Google’s
using an image of Kevin Carter,
a white South African war reporter
in the nineties, member of the so-called
Bang Bang Club, who won a Pulitzer Prize
the same year as you, who haunts you because
he killed himself. What could it mean? What kind
of sign is this? I leave my wedding ring
on the dresser top. Wear comfortable shoes.
Drive to City of Hope, in the desert,
where in the 1920s and thirties
tuberculosis patients came to die.
Some survived, of course.

Dan O’Brien is a poet and playwright who lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles. He is a recent Guggenheim Fellow in Drama and Performance Art.

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