'Grounded' explores the struggle between war and family

‘Grounded’ explores the struggle between war and family

Jen Grigg stars in the Fusion Theatre Company production of “Grounded.”

We have come to accept drone warfare as almost ordinary.

In George Brant’s play “Grounded,” an F-16 fighter pilot is reassigned to the Air Force’s drone program, piloting a remote-controlled Reaper in the Middle East from an air-conditioned trailer outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Confronted with the challenge of fighting a war by day and being a wife and mother by night, she struggles to compartmentalize her existence as her two realities become increasingly permeable.

Fusion Theatre Company is staging “Grounded” beginning on Friday, Oct. 7, at The Cell Theatre. The play runs on weekends through Oct. 16. “Grounded” stars Jen Grigg.

In 1993, the U.S. Armed Forces lifted the Combat Exclusion Policy, sending the first female fighter pilots into direct combat during the Iraq war. Brant’s one-woman play profiles one trailblazing aviator and the impacts of war and changing technologies.

“There was a lot of trepidation, there was a lot of pushback from the men,” director Laurie Thomas said. “There was a lot of whether women could balance a home life with the trauma.”

New York’s Public Theatre produced the play with director Julie Taymor, starring Anne Hathaway in 2015. Critics noted how aviation was quickly turning into “unmanned” technology – how drone wars would supplant the pilot.

The career of Brant’s ace pilot crumbles early due to an unexpected pregnancy. 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.

“With the situation in Ukraine, the dependence on drones has been paramount,” Thomas said. “So there is a resonance today.”

The play also explores gender identity and gender issues.

“It’s a very deep and three-dimensional profile,” Thomas said. “That also includes humor and lightness because that’s part of life. You have to find some lightness and humor to navigate this.

“It’s about beauty and it’s about freedom and it’s about a sense of exhilaration. Of course, the military is the way into it. It’s a wonderful piece to reflect upon what’s going on globally.”

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