Remember this name: George Brant.
We predict that his name will eventually appear alongside such accomplished playwrights as David Mamet and Caryl Churchill..
That’s based on his newest play, a taut, thrilling piece called “Grounded,” which Borderlands Theater opens in previews tonight
“Grounded” is a one-woman show with a riveting script that reads like poetry.
“It’s so multi-layered,” said Barclay Goldsmith, Borderlands founder and the director of this production.
“It’s a one-person narrative, but it brings in the personal lives of people, the contradictions of trying to be a mother who goes to work every day, and it brings in the complexity of surveillance in our personal and public lives.”
The story is about a fighter pilot who leaves the service after she becomes pregnant. But the thrill of flying her own plane in battle is something she doesn’t want to live without, so she re-enlists. Rather than her own jet screeching into the blue skies, however, she is assigned to a trailer in the desert where she operates a drone that wreaks devastation from thousands of miles away.
“It all kind of started out as a general interest in drones and wanting to learn more about them,” said Brant in a phone interview from his Cleveland home.
“Once I found out they were flown from the U.S., I got more interested.”
Brant dove into research about drones. A particularly rich source was the online version of Stars and Stripes, a publication for military personnel.
“I was surprised with the frankness of the articles and there were lots of interviews with pilots,” he said. Those interviews gave Brant a first-hand look at the stress related to flying drones.
“You can get PTSD from flying drones, and at the same rate as pilots who fly planes,” he said.
Brant’s play follows the woman as she marries, begins to thirst after the adventure of flying again, and to her assignment as a drone pilot — an assignment she is not happy about.
“I think it is a joke,” the character says when she learns of her new assignment.
“This is a drone / You want me in the chair force.”
Her new assignment has long, dull moments of waiting until a target appears. And then frantic moments of attack. Then, at night, she goes home to her family.
“I wanted to try to create the tension that these pilot said they felt,” he said. “There are stretches of doing absolutely nothing that are alternated with these high-stress situations.”
Perhaps most impressive is that Brant has not created a didactic script. He may be horrified at the concept of drones. Or not. He wasn’t out to make a statement, only to depict what’s happening and to, hopefully, launch discussions.
“I approached this play with a lot of questions and wasn’t sure where I stood with this new technology and the moral implications of it,” he said.
“I’m happy anytime American soldiers lives are not at risk, but am troubled by some of the moral implications of (the drones) and what it’s doing to our standing in the world.”
He had no interest in simplifying the complicated and volatile issue. Or in telling audiences how to think.
“Drone — it doesn’t sound as though a human is behind it, and I wanted to share the struggles they go through,” he said.
“There are people on the other end — on both ends, and technology in the middle. That’s there’s a very human element on both sides of the drone is something that’s very important.”