Basement is the story of an African-American fighter pilot in World War II who crash lands in war-torn France and is rescued by a French farm girl who doesn't know English. Stuck together in her farmhouse basement hiding away from the Nazis, the two find communication, friendship, and eventually love as the war comes dangerously close to home.
This story was first created by me in 1996, when I grew fond of seeing movies, reading about the Tuskegee Airmen, and being fascinated about the number of African America men who gave their lives fighting the Nazi forces in Europe. In addition, there were many films and stories of resistance groups who worked underground to save Jewish citizens, among other groups targeted and imprisoned. I wanted to combine those ideas into one story, and create something that shows how the incredible spirit of humans stuck in a time of fear can persevere, and in many cases help each other.
The story began as simply a one-act play with only two characters: Lt. Michael Crawler and Katrine Faustin. I've worked on Basement for 20 years, adding new scenes and creating different endings. It's been one of the few shows in my repertoire that I've been afraid to put on. I felt like the story was powerful and important, and I never wanted to just put it up without finding the right actors, director or producer. I care about this story so much that it took me nearly 17 years to even have a proper reading of it, and I finally felt comfortable putting it up in a workshop setting. I'm excited to say that I've found excellent people to be a part of this show, and I feel very comfortable being able to let people see the show and experience the same emotions I had creating it.
When writing the show Basement, I used many stories of the Tuskegee Airmen as a basis, because their stories of courage and determination deserve to be told. As inspiration, I followed the stories of soldiers such as Clarence Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey, and more notably Roscoe Brown. Mr. Brown was not only a Tuskegee Airman, but a professor at New York University, President of Bronx Community College, and director for the Center for Education Policy at the City University of New York. His efforts led to being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 as a collective group with the Tuskegee Airmen. While Basement is not based on a specific Tuskegee Airman, the story is based on their valor during World War II, and Roscoe Brown is a true inspiration to me as a playwright and as a New Yorker. Therefore, I dedicate our performances to Mr. Brown and the members of the Tuskegee Airmen, whose courage and strength were instrumental in the creation of Basement.