Friday, July 11, 2014

Why GROUNDED Is Soaring: Putting Drone Dilemmas In Your Face

Grounded ended its run at the Greenhouse Theater Center on July 13, and my summer wish is that it can be brought back for an extended stay.


Gwendolyn Whiteside in GROUNDED


You can get lots of detail on the production in Tony Adler's review in The Reader ("A pilot brings the war home in American Blues Theater's Grounded: George Brant scores a direct hit with his one-woman play"); what I want to stress here is:

Gwendolyn Whiteside is an amazing actress. I was sitting 2 feet away from the stage, and I found myself attracted and scared at the same time. I kept wanting to get a word in edgewise, interrupt her cocky assertions, but also just hoping to be able just to sidestep her. I had to remind myself again and again that the wasn't a real fighter/drone pilot, that this wasn't really happening to me . . . .

The play itself is pitch-perfect. Gwendolyn Whiteside has help delivering an amazing performance because every word in this play works. And the other aspects of the production - staging, sound, video projections - all contribute to putting you in the boots of a "pilot" who drives back and forth through the Nevada desert every day . . .  shuttling . . . between home (sincere husband and pink-pony-wielding toddler) . . . and "combat" (a dark, air-conditioned trailer where she stares at images of the putty-colored Middle East terrain transmitted by a Reaper drone's cameras).

Grounded raises tough questions. I was hoping that the play would challenge the idea that killing people with drones is good. It's a reflection of the seriousness of this work that that is just one of the issues it raises; others include our society's willingness to destroy the people who we employ to "serve" ("serve our country," serve us in general), our culture's worship of violence / use of force, and the consequences of pervasive surveillance.

Find a way to see Grounded. And tell others.


[UPDATE November 15, 2014 - A quick check on Google indicates that GROUNDED is being produced in numerous productions around the country.  Look for one near you -- and if there isn't a nearby production, talk to a theater company in your area and ask, "Why not?"]

[UPDATE May 17, 2015 - Anne Hathaway takes GROUNDED to Broadway: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/27/theater/anne-hathaways-solo-turn-as-a-fighter-pilot-in-grounded-at-the-public-theater.html ]

Anne Hathaway in GROUNDED at the Public Theater


Related posts

At the end of the day, is surveillance bad if no harm comes of it? Foucault understood this to be symptomatic of the much larger project of societal rule. To Foucault, prior to the physical and bodily aspects of control and manipulation, there are aspects that have to do with seeing, knowing, naming, and categorizing.

(See Drones, 1984, and Foucault's Panopticon)





Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

(See Level Up, Step Up, Grow Up, Man Up . . . Wake Up)












In Chicago on Good Friday, 2013 (March 29), a cast consisting of long-time Chicago antiwar activists was joined by a NY playwright (and defendant in actions against US drone bases), Jack Gilroy, for one of the events kicking off a month-long campaign of anti-drones events across the country: a performance of Gilroy's play, The Predator.

(See "The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era")