Press for Grounded!
TheatreLAB ends ‘Cellar Series’ with one woman show about war, drones and the space between
TheatreLAB, a home for conversation-worthy theatre in Richmond, proudly presents Grounded by George Brant as a finale to The Cellar Series: When The Other Becomes the Self. The series, which brings smaller scale/budget productions with shorter runs, focuses on “one-woman explorations on violence and war, religion and racism, love, self-loathing, personal growth and sacrifice.”
Grounded, directed by the creative Maggie Roop, finishes off this cathartic series detailing a fighter pilot whose career suddenly changes when she finds out she is pregnant.
The pilot, played by the incomparable Bianca Bryan, must adjust after a successful career flying in the open blue sky is traded for a windowless Las Vegas bunker where she must operate military drones to hunt terrorists behind a computer screen.
The line between her life with her family in the Las Vegas desert, and the desert she is patrolling half a world, away blurs as the pressure to find a high-profile target grows; the familiar colors of her day to day life start to fade to gray as the distance between her work and the fuzzy details of her assignment begin to fill in through the unwanted help of her mind. The emotional journey The Pilot goes through–which, at times, is quite literally an emotional rollercoaster–is an internal struggle while she transitions from high-flying pilot to “Chair Force” drone operator.
Playwright George Brant did not leave many details in the script in terms of set or even character description for the show’s singular character of “The Pilot,” who remains unnamed.
“I think this is key as to why he made this a one-woman show, because you watch this show and your mind fills in all the missing blanks,” Bryan said in a recent interview GayRVA.
“The biggest challenge is to make the world clear,” she said. “This particular play is meant to be done very minimally.”
With just one actor and a chair and a screen in front of The Pilot, Roop and her creative team had to figure out how to tell this story while keeping in mind Brant’s abstract theme throughout the course of the play. Sound and projection designer Kelsey Cordrey utilizes projections to set the tone and location for the audience, as well as sounds and songs that set the mood, whether it be joyful or pure static.
Costume and props designer Amber Marie Martinez gave Bryan a flight jumpsuit as her singular costume piece, the symbol of her status as well as her physical reminder of keeping her–well, grounded.
Both Bryan and Roop said audiences should come in with their imaginations open and their ideas about war, technology, and distance challenged. Additionally, both actor and director said that this was a story that needs to be told.
Bryan explained that the technology the Air Force is using with drones overseas is truly eye opening, as well as the desensitized training the drone operators are put through in order to man the planes. “That doesn’t even begin to cover what is happening to the poor people overseas. And what’s to say that everybody has this capability and we’re the only country doing it right now?”
Roop made similar comments.
“The more I’ve learned about the drone program and the more I’ve educated myself about the global effect that this new technology is having on our international relationships, the more important I think it is for people to see this,” she said.
While services like Amazon and UPS are attempting to normalize drone delivery services within our day to day lives, Grounded flips the lens on this topic, proving just how fine the line is between a screen and a drone. Perhaps even more concerning is how quickly our world can start to fade to gray as the distance that once seemed great between us and the harrowing action can rapidly decrease in the blink of an eye.
Grounded opens TODAY and runs through June 3rd at The Basement at TheatreLAB, 300 E Broad St. You can snag tickets here!