Drone On: Modern Warfare Examined In "Grounded"

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Updated Tue, Aug 26, 2014 11:22 am
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Marissa Wolf stars as "The Pilot" in the Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble production of "Grounded," opening Aug. 27 in OU's Kantner Hall.

"Attention People of the Grey Desert: Everything is witnessed."

So announces The Pilot, the sole character in George Brant’s award-winning play Grounded. Once considered a star in the cockpit, this F-16 fighter pilot was reassigned after her pregnancy to drone duty.

Now installed in a trailer on a Las Vegas Air Force base, the threat of death has been removed for The Pilot. But the emotional and psychological lines begin to blur as she clocks in-and-out of work every day to fight a war halfway around the world.

The Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble is presenting Grounded for nine performances at the Ohio University's Hahne Theater, located in Kantner Hall. While the subject of drones in modern warfare is controversial, the production beautifully articulates one woman’s journey from sky blue to video grey.

"Every time I perform the piece I’m surprised," said actress Marissa Wolf, who performs the role of The Pilot. "I find new significance with each rehearsal. The depth of meaning in this play seems unending."

Director Emily Prince agrees: "This might be the most important play I’ve ever worked on. The writing is poetic but packs a punch to the gut. Audiences will leave this production with a greater appreciation of what our military personnel endure psychologically as they fight a never-ending war with an enemy that keeps changing."

Brick Monkey’s connection to Grounded can be traced back to 2011 when company member Erik Ramsey served as the script’s original dramaturge at the renowned WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory.

Local audiences are familiar with Brant’s work: The company staged a reading of his play Defiant at ARTS/West as part of a 9/11 10-year anniversary event.

Since that time, Brant’s career has exploded, and Grounded has become a worldwide phenomenon. The play received The Smith Prize, and was short-listed for the James Tait Black Prize for Drama and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. It was also named a Top 10 play by The Guardian and The London Evening Standard.

"To bring this caliber of play to Southeast Ohio so soon after its world premiere is unprecedented," explained Managing Director Merri Biechler. "September productions are happening here in Athens, London, Rhode Island, Denver, San Francisco, and Goteborg, Sweden. Our Athens theater community is part of world-wide dialogue!" 

Audiences may best know Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble for its annual production of An Appalachian Christmas Carol, which will enjoy its third year at Stuart’s Opera House on Dec. 17-21.

At first glance, Grounded might seem out of character for the professional company. But the company’s mission is to produce thought-provoking new plays, acording to designer Michael Lincoln. Lincoln’s lighting designs have been seen on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in over 300 theatrical productions around the country.

"Producing a play like Grounded is the reason we started a professional theater company in our region," he said.

Brick Monkey is supported by Arts for Ohio, the Ohio Arts Council, the Kleinpenny Educational Fund, the Athens Foundation, the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the O’Bleness Foundation.

This production of Grounded is being dedicated to Brick Monkey's colleague, mentor and friend Bob Winters, who passed away earlier this month.

Grounded runs from Aug. 27-Sept. 6 at the Hahne Theater. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors (60+), $14 for non-OU students, and free for Ohio University students. For tickets and information, visit www.brickmonkey.org.

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