Grounded, by George Brant, is the story of a female Air Force pilot who is grounded after becoming pregnant with her first child. When she returns to duty, she is reassigned from fighter jets to drones and must learn to navigate the intersection of wartime and home life. Reassigned to operate military drones from a windowless trailer outside Las Vegas, she hunts terrorists by day and returns to her family each night. As the pressure to track a high-profile target mounts, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert in which she lives and the one she patrols half a world away.
Grounded, which has been enthusiastically received in New York and London, won the National New Play Network’s 2012 Smith Prize, which honors a new play on American politics. This honor led to a rolling world premiere by San Francisco Playhouse, Borderlands Theater in Tucson and Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City. It won a Fringe First award at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and had a twice-extended run at the Gate Theater in London. The London Evening Standard and The Guardian (which called it “a searing piece of writing”) both listed it as among their top 10 plays of 2013. It has been twice produced in New York City, most recently in 2015 at the Public Theater where it was performed by Anne Hathaway and directed by Julie Taymor. The New York Times’s Charles Isherwood called it a “nuanced and haunting portrait.”
Grounded will be performed by Amber Kelly (pictured) and directed by Lexi Saunders, as a production of the Theater of Thought Company. Amber was last seen onstage in Another Kind of Love: A Punk Rock Play with InFusion Theater Company and is represented by Lily’s Talent. Some of her other previous roles include Cate inBlasted, Dottie in Killer Joe, and Kayleen inGruesome Playground Injuries. Lexi Saunders has recently worked with Steppenwolf, Oracle, Steep, About Face, Mudlark, Pride Films and Plays, and was selected for the inaugural Victory Gardens Directors Inclusion Initiative for emerging Chicago directors.
Kelly describes how she came to Grounded. “For the past 17 years I have educated on the issue of sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender role stereotypes and predatory behavior. In 2010, the US Military became my biggest client. Shortly thereafter, I visited Creech Air Force Base, just outside of Las Vegas, to speak on the issue.
This visit coincided with the recent advent of the use of drones in military warfare. Many of the pilots had been reassigned from flying planes over the desert in the Middle East, to operating them by remote control from the desert in Nevada. It was confided in me that this new system had lead to an increase in domestic violence. There was no longer a separation of wartime and home life. Drone pilots often have shifts up to 12 hours of being at war, and head home with no transition. Then their kid acts up or their spouse makes them upset. This new style of warfare was taking its toll on the human beings expected to participate in it. Then came George Brandt’s play about a woman who was reassigned from F-16s to drones and sent to Creech for wartime.” Kelly is available for interviews on request.
To help Kelly deal with the emotionally draining content of Grounded, a new technique called “traumaturgy” will be employed during the rehearsal process. The technique was developed by Rachel Flesher, who will be assisting the director. Just as a fight director assures the physical well being of the actor by putting safety elements into the moves of a fight, the traumaturg assures the emotional well-being of the actor by helping her navigate through the mental and physical landscape of a traumatic scene, while instilling safety using techniques that protect the actor’s mental well-being.
This powerful one-woman show will be the first production in The Buena at 4147 N. Broadway, part of the Pride Arts Center. The production will be supported by an all-female creative team. It will stand as an example of theater which can be moving, edgy, and thought-provoking, while maintaining a safe and supportive environment.
George Brant is a native of Park Ridge, Illinois and a graduate of Northwestern University. His plays include Grounded, Elephant’s Graveyard, Marie and Rosetta, Grizzly Mama, Good on Paper, The Mourners’ Bench, Salvage, Three Voyages of the Lobotomobile, Any Other Name, Defiant, Dark Room, Miracle: A Tragedy, Ashes, NOK, The Lonesome Hoboes, All Talk, One Hand Clapping, The Royal Historian of Oz, Lovely Letters, Three Men in a Boat, Borglum! The Mount Rushmore Musical, Tights on a Wire and Night of the Mime.
Brant's work has been produced internationally by such companies as the Public Theater, Trinity Repertory Company, The Atlantic Theater, Cleveland Play House, The Alley Theatre, City Theatre, Gate Theatre of London, Page 73, Studio Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, Traverse Theatre, Borderlands Theater, SF Playhouse, American Blues Theatre, Dobama Theatre, Red Stitch, Theatre 4, Premiere Stages, Trustus Theatre, Elemental Theatre Collective, Balagan Theatre, the Drama League, the Disney Channel, Factory Theatre, StreetSigns Theatre Company, and zeppo theater company, among others.
His plays have been generously developed by the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, The Playwrights' Center, Asolo Rep, McCarter Theatre Center, New Harmony Project, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, WordBRIDGE Playwright’s Lab, InterAct Theatre, Theatre @ Boston Court, Playwright and Director Center of Moscow, Florida Studio Theatre, New Jersey Rep, Contemporary Drama Festival of Hungary, the Hangar Theatre, Equity Library Theatre, and Ground UP Productions, among others.
By George Brant
Performed by Amber Kelly
Directed by Lexi Saunders
Pride Arts Center
4147 N. Broadway
Tickets will be available online at http://theaterofthought.com/
Ticket prices range $18 - $25
Preview Friday, October 21 - 8 pm
Press Opening Saturday, October 22 - 8 pm
Regular run October 23 - November 6. Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm.