Riverside Theatre soars with new virtual production of ‘Grounded’

The virtual production tells the story of a fighter pilot struggling with her new role as a mother and as a drone operator.

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Madeline Liegois, Arts Reporter


The sky is not the only limit in Riverside Theatre’s upcoming one-woman show, Grounded by George Brant.

The play tells the story of a fighter pilot — fittingly named “The Pilot” — who becomes pregnant and undergoes a massive life change as a mother and a new career as drone operator. The Pilot, played by Iowa actor Katy Hahn, strives to balance the two in the tale: that of a modern woman trying to have it all in the world, even as a former F16 pilot.

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While the protagonist’s story deals with the topical issues of drones and foreign policy, Director Caroline Price says that the show is more centered on the personal feminine story than the broader politics.

“It’s much more focused on who she is as a female, who she is as a pilot, and who she is through this journey discovering what her role in the world is,” Price said.

The Pilot is a woman with a hard exterior, who is juxtaposed by the softness of her husband, Eric. While the audience never sees Eric, his presence is strong as a main outlet of vulnerability and support.

“She is tough as nails, or at least she tries to be,” Hahn said of her character. “She views tears as a weakness, a weakness in herself at least, but it is something that she admires in her husband Eric — that he’s emotionally available.”

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Grounded doesn’t follow the typical one-actor show format by being a metamorphosis of characters played by one actor. Price described the show as being more of a series of confessionals. The Pilot expresses her deepest frustrations and fears of her new life, even though she does not want to admit to herself that she is struggling.

“The show toes the line of being very relatable while being very specific,” the director said. “If you don’t know about flying or drones it’s OK  because it’s still about her journey as a woman trying to figure out who she is.”

Even as a well-seasoned actor, Hahn said becoming The Pilot has been a daunting task compared to other shows she’s done in the past.

“This project has been one of the most — if not, the most — challenging acting projects I have ever faced,” she said.

Because of COVID-19, Riverside Theatre has faced unique challenges in order to bring the show to a virtual audience. These obstacles have been tackled by each member of the show’s production team, but a key player has been the show’s cinematographer, Rob Merritt, who is tasked with bringing the raw emotions of Grounded to a virtual audience.

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“There is only a handful of people that gets to see this in person,” Merritt said. “That puts more pressure on me as the person who is filming it to make sure that audiences watching it on a computer screen are going to get close to that same feeling that I got watching it live.”

Grounded will premiere streaming on the Riverside Theater’s website on Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 25 at 11:59 p.m.

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