2015/2016 Season

Behind the Scenes: Exit Strategy’s Set Design

Scenic Designer Andrew Boyce gives us a behind the scenes look at the process of creating the set for Exit Strategy by Ike Holter.

Tell us a little bit about the set design for Exit Strategy.

The play takes place primarily in the teachers lounge of a dilapidated public school in Chicago. So we dove into creating this environment as realistically as we were able. The play asks for that naturalism. I had the opportunity to go and visit some Chicago high schools, take photographs, etc. – so the materials and layout of the space came from that investigation.

What is your favorite part of the set?

It’s hard to pinpoint a singular, favorite part – but I did love wrestling with, and creating all of the little details that add up and round out the verisimilitude of this room. Thinking through the material choices, the right pieces of furniture, set dressing, etc. It was an exercise in specificity and patience in continuing to search.

Tell us a little about the process of designing the set to be used in (and moved between) Philadelphia and The Cherry Lane Theatre in New York.

That was the trickiest part of this process. They are two very different spaces that have different proportions, audience relationships, and design challenges. And tearing down and rebuilding scenery is always tricky – things get beat up, change, need re-configuring. Supporting the play in the two different spaces was an exciting challenge.

The set is quite detailed. What’s something that the audience may not notice right away, but should keep and eye out for when they see Exit Strategy.

Maybe the paper-products in the dressing? The teachers-union announcements, the posters, the recycling directions… [they’re all] straight from the source.


The Primary Stages production of Exit Strategy by Ike Holter is running now through May 6, 2016 at The Cherry Lane Theatre. For more information and tickets, visit our website.

Exit Strategy: Production Photos

A fiery, riveting work from the award-winning writer of Hit the Wall, about the chaotic final days of an urban public high school, Exit Strategy is a taut, edge-of-your-seat drama about the future of public education from a vital new voice in American playwriting.

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Ryan Spahn and Christina Nieves

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Ryan Spahn and Aimé Donna Kelly

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Ryan Spahn

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Deirdre Madigan

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Brandon J. Pierce

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Michael Cullen

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Christina Nieves

Performances for Exit Strategy run through May 6 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.


Projection Design: Interview with Alex Basco Koch

Projection Designer Alex Basco Koch shares how he brought Paul Watson’s photography and other design elements to life on stage in The Body of an American. 

Performances for The Body of an American run through March 20 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.


The Body of An American tells the story of the unlikely friendship between playwright Dan O’Brien and Pulitzer Prize-winning war photojournalist Paul Watson. We thought you might enjoy learning more about these fascinating men.

  • Listen to the interview that started it all! O’Brien first contacted Watson after hearing this interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.
  • Read an excerpt from Paul Watson’s memoir Where War Lives: A Journey Into the Heart of War. (You can purchase a copy here.)
  • O’Brien recently shared some poetry from his new collection, New Life, on our blog. (You can purchase a copy here.)
  • O’Brien’s earlier collection of poems about Watson entitled War Reporter—described in the Guardian as “a masterpiece of truthfulness and feeling”—received the UK’s Fenton Aldeburgh Prize and was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.
  • This fascinating interview with Watson and O’Brien gives some wonderful background context to their friendship.
  • Paul Watson recently resigned from his post as journalist for the Toronto Star. Read his side of the story in his own words, in “Why I Resigned From the Toronto Star.”

Performances for The Body of an American run through March 20 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.

Poetry Excerpts from New Life by Dan O’Brien

Dan O’Brien, the playwright of The Body of An American, is also a poet. He generously agreed to share a few of his poems about Paul Watson here on our blog.

The War Reporter Paul Watson Bids His Joy Farewell

Over FaceTime with his son complaining
about math, the cat’s diarrhea, those dire
choral concerts, Paul mentions he’ll be gone
a week or so. So what? ripostes his son
with a wit half his age. Knowing full well
no WiFi is murder. To Syria,
Paul persists. The betrayal. The Youngbloods
on his laptop, We are but a moment’s
sunlight fading in the grass. His joy asks,
Why do you have to? Stay home. Twisting off
-screen to strangle his tears in the window’s
vale of skiers. Paul’s hotel glass unveils
a surf at Bourj Hammoud the squalor of
the scotch in his tumbler. The near-future
will often bleed through. Like this nine-year-old
girl in a hospital because shrapnel
from a mortar bomb pierced the tent and speared
an aluminum vessel like a balloon
atop their space heater. The flaming oil
splashed over her cheek, her arm. Her mother
tried to smother the screaming but only
smeared the searing goo farther. In an ear
that seemed to disappear. Now like a stone
moldered over with the moss of silver
sulfadiazine cream, caked on to ward off
sepsis. Fracturing like plaster. The ungloved
nurses peel the gauze. Assad’s bombardment
reminds the city. The half-deaf girl’s sobs
chasten a crowded hallway. This moment
gets photographed tomorrow. I’ll return
soon, Paul promises. But in case I don’t
make it back, all you’ll need to do is go
up the mountainside and ask the forest
whether to ask out that girl. Ask the rain
how to finesse your mother. Ask the storm
if you can borrow His car. They’re laughing
between their screens. Can you promise? His son
gambles, Fuck off. The song on Paul’s laptop
switches to something less meaningful as
they disconnect.


The Body of An American: Press Meet and Greet

This morning, the cast and creative team behind Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American met members of the press for photographs and interviews. You can see some of the highlights from the event below.


Back row: Alex Basco Koch, Casey Childs, Jo Bonney. Front row: Michelle Bossy, Michael Cumpsty, Michael Crane


Michael Cumpsty


Michael Crane


Jo Bonney


Michael Cumpsty, Jo Bonney, Michael Crane

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting videos from the event. Follow us on YouTube and Facebook to get the newest behind-the-scenes video content!

Performances for The Body of an American begin February 10 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.

Casting Announced: The Body of an American

We’re thrilled to announce the casting of our 2016 production of The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien. The Body of an American tells the true story of an extraordinary friendship as two men, a war photojournalist and playwright, journey from some of the most dangerous places on earth to the depths of the human soul.

Crane, MichaelMICHAEL CRANE: New York Theater: Gloria (Vineyard); Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, King Lear and Richard III (Public Theater), Taking Care Of Baby (MTC), Doris To Darlene (Playwrights Horizons), The MAG-7 (Naked Angels), The Young Left (Cherry Lane), The Tenant (Woodshed Collective), West Moon Street (Prospect Theater Company), Bone Portraits (Stillpoint Prods), Brack’s Last Bachelor Party (59E59), Middlemen (Human Animals). Regional: Father Comes Home From The Wars (A.R.T.), Hamlet (Pioneer Theatre), Pig Iron Theatre Co., Long Wharf, Williamstown, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Weston Playhouse. TV/Film: Winter’s Tale, “Damages,” “White Collar,” “Forever,” “Law & Order,” “Kings.” MFA: NYU.

Michael Cumpsty MICHAEL CUMPSTY: Broadway: Machinal, The Winslow Boy, End of the Rainbow (Tony nomination), Sunday in the Park with George, The Constant Wife, Democracy, Copenhagen, Enchanted April, 42nd Street, Electra, 1776, Racing Demon, The Heiress, Translations, La Bete, Timon of Athens, Artist Descending a Staircase. Off Broadway: including Hamlet (Obie award), Richard ll, Richard lll, Twelfth Night, Timon of Athens, All’s Well That End’s Well, Cymbeline. Two River Theater: Absurd Person Singular, Present Laughter, Much Ado. TV: including “The Good Wife,” “Madam Secretary,” “The Knick,” “Elementary,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Law and Order,” “LA Law.” Film: including Eat Pray Love, Wall Street 2, The Visitor, Flags of our Fathers, The Ice Storm, Fatal Instinct, The Ex, Starting Out in the Evening.

Dan O'Brien, author of the play "The Body of an American" DAN O’BRIEN (Playwright): Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American premiered at Portland Center Stage, directed by Bill Rauch, and received the Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play, the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize, the PEN Center USA Award for Drama, and the L. Arnold Weissberger Award. In 2014 The Body of an American received a European premiere at the Gate Theatre in London and Royal & Derngate in Northampton, directed by James Dacre, and was shortlisted for an Evening Standard Drama Award. O’Brien’s debut poetry collection War Reporter was published in 2013 in the US and the UK, where it received the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize. O’Brien lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress and writer Jessica St. Clair, and their daughter Isobel.

Jo Bonney

JO BONNEY (Director): Premieres: Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home from the Wars (The Public Theater & ART, Boston); Neil LaBute’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie (Geffen Theater); Lanford Wilson’s The Mound Builders (Signature Theater); David Rabe’s An Early History of Fire (The New Group); Eve Ensler’s Emotional Creature (Johannesburg & Cape Town, S.A.; Cine 13, Paris; Berkeley Theater; Signature Theater, NY); Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (Second Stage, NY; Geffen Playhouse) (Drama Desk & Lucille Lortel Nom. Best Director); Neil LaBute’s Break of Noon and Fat Pig (MCC & Geffen); Culture Clash’s American Night (OSF, La Jolla PLayhouse, The Kirk Douglas); Naomi Wallace’s The Hard Weather Boating Party (Humana Festival) and Fever Chart (Public Theater); Michael Weller’s Beast (New York Theatre Workshop); Alan Ball’s All that I Will Ever Be (NYTW); Jose Rivera’s Adoration of the Old Woman (La Jolla Playhouse) and Reference to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (Public Theater); Will Power’s The Seven (NYTW & La Jolla Playhouse) (L. Lortel Best Musical); Darci Picoult’s Lil’s 90th (Long Wharf Theatre); Christopher Shinn’s On the Mountain (Playwrights Horizons); Universes’ Slanguage (NYTW/ Mark Taper Forum); Diana Son’s Stop Kiss and Anna Deavere Smith’s House Arrest (Public Theater); Jessica Goldberg’s Good Thing (The New Group); Danny Hoch’s Some People and Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop (USA/Britain); Dael Orlandersmith’s Stoop Stories (Studio Theatre, Washington & The Goodman Theatre); Eric Bogosian’s Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll; Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead (USA/Britain) & Humpty Dumpty (McCarter Theatre) among others. Productions: John Pollono’s Small Engine Repair (MCC); Nilo Cruz’s Anna in the Tropics (Arena Stage); Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s) (MCC); Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July (Signature Theatre) (L. Lortel Best Revival); Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play and Lisa Loomer’s Living Out (Second Stage); John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (CSC) Recipient of a 1998 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Direction, the Lilly Award and editor of Extreme Exposure: An Anthology of Solo Performance Texts from the Twentieth Century (TCG).

For tickets to The Body of American, visit our website.

Look who attended Gala 2015!

The annual Primary Stages Gala is our opportunity to honor leading members of the theater community. This year, we were proud to honor Tony and Grammy award-winning composer and lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman at the Primary Stages 2015 Annual Gala at 583 Park Avenue.

The event featured musical numbers from Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can, and the TV show “Smash” and performances and tributes from Obie winner Bridget Everett, Ana Gasteyer, Annie Golden, Jackie Hoffman, Tony winner Nathan Lane, Caissie Levy, Tony winner Billy Porter, Tony winner Marc Shaiman, Aaron Tveit.

Photos by Stavros Panopulos, Hechler Photographers.

Thank you so much to everyone who made our 2015 Gala a huge success! For more information about supporting Primary Stages, please visit our website.