a play by Damian Wampler, directed by Angela Astle

Best friends, separated by choice, reunited by fate.

Starts Friday, June 12 for 6 shows at the Robert Moss Theater, 440 Lafayette.

Showtimes: Friday, June 12, 5:30pm,
Sunday, June 14, 9:00pm
Wednesday, June 17, 4:00pm
Thursday, June 18, 4:00pm
Friday, June 19, 7:30pm
Sunday, June 28, 1:00pm

Tickets are $18 at http://www.planetconnectionsfestivity.com/

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Air Support

Below is an excerpt from the first version of my play. This section has been cut but it fills in details about Trevor that are still evident in the play, as well as exemplifies the tragedy of war that plays out on all our soldiers in combat. Trevor, traumatized the the reality of his own actions in Iraq, still can not pull himself away from the screen of his laptop. He has obtained areal footage from one of his missions where he had a near death experience and he watches it over and over. In this scene, it is 3:00am. Why are we drawn to images of death? Why do we hold on to them and live in the past? Is war something we can ever move away from once experienced?

Although dramatized, what is described below is what actually happened to a soldier I met. He came very close to death and somehow got a copy of the video from the fighter bomber. He showed us the video as well, which looked very much like the one I have posed above.

Trevor sits on the be with Bunny watching a video
Trevor: OK, see that big building? We were up against that. All those black dots, that’s us.

Bunny: Oh I see. Like ants.

Trevor: Like fire ants!

Bunny: No, like little black ants.

Trevor: You’re ruining it. There are six Americans and seven of those good for nothing Iraqi police. They’re scared to shoot ‘cause the guys closing in on us could be their relatives or something. Ain’t that some fucked up shit. And there are at least 150 of them, insurgents, rebels, freedom fighters, whatever you want to call them- bad guys, that’s what we call ‘em. They tried to wear us down, thinking we’d run out of food an ammo, but hours and hours of fighting go by and we are still there and they are dropping like flies. So they swarm down on us, maybe 135 of them, to take us out. Like a zombie movie, crazies everywhere, within a few feet of us, and we are just blasting away. But we’re ultimately gonna loose. So I called to the pilot, see, called in an air strike. That’s me screaming for him to come.

Bunny: Screaming like a woman.

Trevor: Quiet. And here he is talking to AWAC, he’s getting the coordinates of the enemy position, and I’m like ‘hurry up god damn it!’ And here he swings around. Wait, see, see this, ok, that’s them. And pow! He lets it go, swings away, see, shit, how close it was?! Ok, look at the ring of debris, see he dropped it maybe three meters from our position, and the rubble, rocks the size of cars, went right over our heads and landed on the other side of us. I mean, a bit closer and we’d be vaporized, and a bit further away and all that concrete would have landed right on top of us. But it just went sailing right over us. So accurate. Jesus. (pause) I like to think that he did that on purpose. I mean, he could have had orders just to take out the bad guys, maybe sacrifice the six of us, who knows. Maybe we got lucky. Don’t touch me.

Bunny: Sorry.

Trevor: I gotta go.

Bunny: Please stay.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The First Reading

On Saturday, 4 strangers met to read my play out loud in the basement of a bar in the West Village. I am fortunate to live in a city where people are so enthusiastic about theater that they would do a cold reading for a stranger on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Thank you all for helping me and for your honest feedback at the end.

A reading is critical. I was able to see who had too many lines, which characters vanished for too long, and what lines provokes laughs and smiles. It got my wheels turning, and I am thinking about how what changes to make. How did it read? Well, my first impression is that the bold second act obscures the mundane first act, making the whole piece feel stronger than it really is. What does this mean? With a little tinkering, I can make a good script into a great one. I don't have any overwhelming structural changes to make, just a few tweaks here and there. One of the readers said that it had a finished feel to it. I hope so, I've been working on it for a year! But it still needs more work to find a balance between the two main characters from the title, and to focus the emphasis on the transformation that is taking place within Jamal.

The most important question to come out of the reading was, "Why hip-hop?" And indeed, why an all black or mostly black cast? The play is about war, about pregnancy out of wedlock, about guns and gangs and displaced families. Our soldiers in Iraq aren't pulled from the white middle class suburbs, they come from the streets of the poorest neighborhoods. Our pop music and our dance also comes from the streets. Out problems and our richness come from these streets. In "Gangs of New York" they say America was born in the streets. I say it still is. I was thinking of Romeo and Juliet when I decided to place the play in the Bronx. Verona for the English was a mythical, bawdy, violent and lusty place. The Bronx, for us, conjures many of the same images, from "The Bronx is Burning" to "A Bronx Tale" to "Rumble in the Bronx", it is a place in our mind that stirs up heat, blood and asphalt. Quite simply, this play couldn't happen anywhere else.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Music

“Twin Towers” can be said to be a play about creation. Music is an integral part of the story of this play because I observed in Crown Heights and while volunteering in Harlem that music is woven into the fabric of every day life in African and Caribbean communities (as well as many others I’m sure).

In “Twin Towers” we meet to friends reunited after both living overseas for several years, Jamal in the Peace Corps and Trevor as a soldier in Iraq. Both are singers by a virtue of their upbringing in the Bronx, and as friends they invented rap songs together. In Act I we find Jamal trying to write a song, albeit unsuccessfully. Trevor is able to finish the song only after he comes to the cataclysmic realization that he is not the man he thought he was, and certainly not the hero and savior his friends and family are expecting him to become. It is only after the trauma of rejection and the realization of the awful truth about himself that Trevor can finish the song that Jamal could not. It is a reminder that destruction is a necessary cathartic force, clearing the way for new ideas and inspiration. It is a theme that flows throughout the play, with each character understanding the nature of creation and destruction to varying degrees.

Below is an excerpt from Trevor’s song:

Your words penetrate me
Armor piercing round
Like a rolling thunder
Recoil at the sound

I yield to your touches
Your fingers they invade
No shield can protect me
From the fate that I have made

Under cover of darkness you take me
To a place where madness will break me
And all my fears I thought over
Come alive in the shadow

The Subway

Several scenes in “Twin Towers” take place in the subway. The subway is a fascinating world – it is the one place in New York City where there is a real sense of community. If the train breaks down, we are all in it together. And when a stinky bum gets on your car, you better believe we are all in it together!

I met up with a subway performer, Heidi Burger, and began to photograph her and other platform artists for a book she is writing called the Subway Diaries, soon to be published. I actively sought out subway performers and befriended some of them, and in this process I learned how close knit and inclusive these people are. I watched as drummers and singers jockeyed for position to get the sweetest spots on the subway. I met a ballet dancer, a man who plays the saw and a magician who performs on the car itself. I’ve seen them yell at one another when their music overlaps, each claiming seniority. And I’ve seen unbelievable acts of kindness and compassion, a rare sight above ground!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An early scene

Here is an excerpt from an every version of the play which has since been cut. It is the dramatization of a story my boss likes to tell about his time in Vietnam:

Jeff: Go where you are needed, hu? ‘Till they don’t need you know more. Then they throw you right out on the street. Ain’t that how it is?

Omar: Ain’t that how it was?

Jeff: How it was. We served, Uncle Sam, two years in ‘dat jungle, you an me. In Vietnam. Remember that night? Rain’in. All I wanted was a hot meal.

Omar: Jus a hot meal.

Jeff: So I take my helmet, and I pour in a can of soup. And I try to light a fire. But everything is all wet. Soaked to the bone.

Omar: To the bone.

Jeff: So one guy in our platoon takes out the plastic explosive and pulls off a piece, a little tab like, the size of a dime. And he puts in on the ground and lights it up. And damn, like a roman candle that thing lights up. Hot soup- faser den a microwave! I pull my helmet off, but iz still burning, steady and bright, and I say, ‘You fool, you’ll give away our position’ and I step on it with my boot. And it burns a whole straight my boot, straight through my foot, straight up out the other side. And I get sent back the States. With noth’in. I get nothing. Because I ‘damaged government property.’ You in the military, your body is government property. Your body doesn’t even belong to you. How can you not own your own body?

Omar: I don no. I juz don’ know. (they exit)

More on the play…

The sounds of the street were the greatest inspiration for me to write this play, and since writing ‘Twin Towers” characters from my play appear before my eyes every day.

For example, last week on Eastern Parkway I saw a young man in a military uniform talking to his buddies on the front steps of his apartment. It reminded me of the opening scene of Twin Towers in an early version of the script, and made me think of how relevant my work is. The American soldiers in Iraq are drawn from the poorest neighborhoods, lured by the opportunity to ‘gain skills’ and make money.

Another night, I observed a Christian fundamentalist and a young entrepreneur argue on the 4 train all the way from Bowling Green to Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. The business man wore a grey suit and bow tie, politely but fiercely shooting jibes and comments at his opponent. The evangelical held an oversized bible in his hand and quoted the scriptures for every retort. The entire platform was involved, and as we moved into the car the argument continued. I was sure a fight was going to break out on several occasions!

It is moments like this that created the basis for “Twin Towers”, which is actually set in the Bronx. And each day as I see more and more moments like this I am reminded that my play is relevant, real, raw and alive.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Welcome to my Twin Towers Blog. This is where it all begins- a cold reading in a dark room in New York.

This play began when I moved to New York two years ago. I had written and produced two plays in college but hadn't written anything since - until I arrived here. What better place to write and produce my play than here.

The words didn't come easily. I wanted to write something personal, something unique, something powerful. But living in Park Slope, there was little to inspire me. Then, 8 months later, I moved to Crown Heights, and Twin Towers began. Crown Heights has been called 'crime ridden', 'dangerous' and even 'volatile', but never boring. The streets here are alive with passion and vitality. What began as an exercise, writing down the conversations I overheard on Eastern Parkway, transformed into a story of a confused post 9/11 New York.

In the spring of 2007 I met up with an old high school friend Matthew Anderson and we took a road trip from Portland, Oregon to South Carolina, ending up eventually in Washington DC. Along the way I met with many old friends and realized two things - how similar we were, and how much we had grown apart. Matt had joined the Coast Guard, and many of my friends whom I met on that trip had just gotten back from one or two tours in Iraq. I, on the other hand, had just gotten back from several years living abroad teaching English and doing research, first with the Peace Corps and then on a Fulbright grant. We all had intense cross-cultural experiences in Muslim countries, but our perspective was fundamentally different because of the manner in which we chose to travel there. Thus my two main characters, Trevor and Jamal, were born. Two men from the same streets who both wanted the same things - travel, adventure, culture, but got it in different ways. The question is - if the methods of understanding yourself and your planet differ, can two people still find a common ground?

The play is all but done, and now I'm looking for some young enthusiastic actors to read it out load so I can do a final rewrite. From that we'll begin casting and then production. And from there? Who knows....