This past weekend I saw my very first show produced by Frank Theatre. I had heard fantastic things about their past productions, so when I was invited to see Grounded, a play by George Brant, I jumped at the opportunity. I came in with high expectations, which can be a dangerous thing for a theater goer, but I was not disappointed. Frank Theater’s mission is to produce unique work that stretches the skills of the artists who create the work while simultaneously challenging the everyday perceptions of the audience through the exploration of ideas and issues of social, political and/or cultural concern.
This seems like quite a lot to take on, but Grounded fits this bill perfectly. The one woman show, performed in a tour de force by Audrey Park explores the story of a fighter pilot who is grounded due to pregnancy and when returning back to the job is designated as a drone pilot.
I don’t know much about the US Air Force’s military strategy, but I was aware before going to see Grounded at the Perpich Center for the Arts that unmanned drones were being used more in our war in the Middle East. I had no idea however how they were operated or utilized by the air force.
As I learned from the air force major depicted in the play the drones are operated by air force pilots often times thousands of miles. They punch in at the beginning of the day and enter the war, staring at grey images for hours before punching out and returning to their families. This obviously is a big shift in the way that war has been fought in the past.
These facts, about the evolution of the war time strategies and tools, are objectively interesting, but it is the way that the story is told, in first person by one individual, that makes these facts and the way that they affect lives real and powerful. Audrey Park’s performance of the pilot sucks you into her story and carries you along for the emotional roller coaster straight through to the troubling conclusion.
Although she stood alone on stage, there was obviously a fantastic team of designers behind the scenes. The costumes by Kathy Kohl told us who the pilot is. The lighting by Mike Kittel and scenery by Joe Stanley proved a clean backdrop of the story to be told, with the lightning changing along with the pilot’s story. Lastly the sound design by Mike Croswell is essential, the music selections are a great way to break up and lighten the play. All of these elements were brought together seamlessly by director Wendy Knox.
Frank Theatre's Grounded is great theater. A disappointing number of seats sat empty at last Saturday night’s performance. Grounded is playing for one more weekend at Perpich Center, closing on Feburary 18th and then playing one last performance Rochester Civil Theater on February 24th.
I highly recommend this show, click here to find more information about the show and how to get tickets.
*Photography by Tony Nelson