This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 14 No. 3/4, "Changing Scenes: Theater in the South." Find more from that issue here.

"I'd have to say that a sense of place is overwhelmingly important. Just 'being' somewhere seems to shape the moment. In the works I've seen that really moved me, it's that reality of place that does it. Place is paramount. I think it's something a good writer can give an audience that they can take home with them after the play. When we did Wasted, we tried to develop in the audience a feeling that they had sand down the back of their necks and mosquito bites on their arms. We also stressed to the cast on stage that in the military when you're in a situation, you can't leave. You're stuck in the place."

Wasted is set among U.S. troops in Vietnam and takes place on the day Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.



KELLY: Bassett, I just heard some shit I haven't checked out yet, there's been a report that . . . (Spider cuts Kelly off, roaring in a rage).

SPIDER: Hound, I just heard from some brothers in the artillery. . . aaaahhh!!. Goddamn you . . . just goddamn you, Kelly! (Even Kelly is surprised at the rage in Spider's voice.)

SPIDER: A Report! Fuck you, Kelly. Hey Hound, someone wasted Martin Luther King down in Dixie Land. Blew-the-man-away. The bloods back home are going up against the man everywhere . . . The government's sending regular troops into the cities and neighborhoods because the fucken brothers have flipped-out. Going up against the man. And here we are . . . fighting for the man. Now ain't that a fucken blip. Hey, you and Kelly like to shoot the shit so much, shoot the shit over that, motherfucker. (Spider stalks past Bassett, Kelly and Bassett face each other at center stage. New guys stand clear of Spider, eyes are on Kelly now.)

BASSETT: (To Kelly) That true . . . about King?

KELLY: Near as I know, happened yesterday or last night . . .

BASSETT: How come we didn't hear nothing at the firebase?

THOMAS: How come they're keepin' shit from us?

ROY: What's goin' on . . . ?

KELLY: You know everything I know . . . Mac's gone to get the lieutenant . . .


BASSETT: What about that other shit Spider's saying . . . riots and stuff . . . huh? (Bassett and new guys step toward Kelly, Kelly's hand moves to pistol holster, then suddenly away. Bassett catches the flickering movement. Kelly is shaken at his reflex move.)

KELLY: Hey, easy, man. I haven't heard anything yet but second-hand bullshit, same as you. We are still in this goddamned war and Marine Corps together . . .

SPIDER: (Shoves past new guys to confront Kelly.) Well Goddamn! Just listen to the man . . . you prick, Kelly. You fucken prick! You ought to be partying with your man Drew. I saw your man Drew and he is partying . . . said I could go to the funeral . . . said it was damn good shooting . . . aaahh!!!. . . Goddamn fucken Drew! (Spider kicks ammo crate at center stage viciously, turns to Kelly.)

SPIDER: Go party with your lifer-redneck friends . . .

KELLY: (Roars to Spider) Drew isn't my fucken friend, shithead! Why are you getting so hot, Spider? You were running King down at the firebase . . .I heard you tell Thomas that King was a Uncle Tom, . . . that SCLC and the NAACP were all a bunch of Toms . . . now deny you said that, Spider!

SPIDER: Ain't none of your fucken business . . fuck you . . . asshole!

KELLY: You'd rather fuck with me . . .I've just about had it with your fucken shit . . . (Spider, half-turned from Kelly, pivots and moves toward him.)

SPIDER: Fuck you! You big gung-ho lifer mother­fucker . . . think you're John-Fucken-Wayne . . . I hated your guts the first day I met you . . . like a cop, telling ever'body what to do . . . I fucken hate your guts!!! (Spider leaps to Kelly, swinging wildly, Kelly is surprised and falls to the ground with Spider flailing away on his chest, Bassett and the new guys wrestle Spider off Kelly. Roy and Thomas take Spider to the ground with some difficulty. Acevedo lights a cigarette, watching the scene.)

SPIDER: (Spider's resistance is fading into sorrow.) Hound! They goddamn hate us . . . can't you see? They act like our buddies, joke and slap our backs . . . and when our backs are turned they call us niggers and hate our guts . . . they hate us . . . and I hate them, I hate every goddamn one of these white motherfuckers!

ROY: (Holding Spider down, gentle tone.) Easy, Blood, easy. We know.

KELLY: (Attempts to move past Bassett to Spider.) That's it . . .

BASSETT: (Blocks Kelly physically.) I got it, Kelly.

ROY: Calm down, Spider.

BASSETT: (To Spider) We'll talk about it, talk about everything. Just be cool one minute. I want to find out what is going on . . .

KELLY: If you can't cool him down, I will.

BASSETT: Sgt. Kelly, I'll handle this . . . OK?

KELLY: Hound, I'm sorry about King. I don't know what the fuck to say . . . but, this is still my squad . . .

BASSETT: You're sorry . . . back off! Back the fuck off just a hair, man. We got to talk. Bloods got to talk and . . .

KELLY: Yeah? And what are the fucken gooks going to do, Hound? Call off the goddamn war while you people have a fucken meeting?

BASSETT: Shit! Kelly, let me take care of this. We need to talk. Blacks. Black Marines. We got to sort things out. Just let me handle this. Just give us a minute . . . (Kelly and Bassett lock eyes . . . )