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"Grounded," The Conversation

Greta Wholrabe

This is the final weekend of Cardinal Stage Company's production of Grounded. It's the story of a female fighter pilot who is grounded and reassigned to operating drone strikes.

Army reservist Tara Briggs saw the play this week. Briggs did a tour in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 and now she's getting her law degree from Indiana University. She sat down with Greta Wohlrabe, the actress who plays the pilot in the Cardinal production, to talk about their personal connections to the story.

Greta Wohlrabe: I'm a Navy kid. My dad was in the Navy for 36 years. He was a chaplain. The acting bug bit me, and then I got my MFA from Purdue. Sorry IU!

Tara Briggs: My husband went to Purdue briefly. I am an army reservist. My husband was active duty Marine Corps. My father was a naval aviator. So, I've had a lot of military in my family, so I was very attracted to coming to see the play, very curious about what it was about. I came into the play with biases. I was very afraid it was going to be a feminist play, that I was going to be outraged, 'How dare you tell me how I am treated as a female.' But I was very happy to see that it was not. Several things in the play spoke to me personally. The first time I cried was when you realized the blur between being at war and being at home. From my own experience, we talked about when we demobilized from Afghanistan how quickly we do it. It's a week and you're home. There's not that time to decompress and you're going home to people that weren't there. And I remember I don't want to cry now but I remember I used to get honked at a lot when I started driving again, because although I drove on base, we would only be allowed 15-miles-per-hour. You'd get honked at because you're going too slow, and you're just like wow. You're looking out the window at these people and they don't know.

GW: My dad served over in Iraq, and he doesn't like to talk about it. I think it's a way of protecting me and the rest of my family.

TB: I've been very blessed because I have military in my family, in my blood, so I've never felt like I can't share something with you because of protection. I'm kind of curious, if your father has seen your play if you think that could be a channel to get him to communicate?

GW: He did, he saw it on Valentine's Day. My mom and him came down. They retired to Milwaukee. I think he was afraid he was going to be offended, and when I first read what it was about, I was worried the same thing because I didn't want to do something that was biased in any way. I think it has a really powerful message. I think it humanizes this soldier. And he did start to open up more. We went out for wine afterwards and he told me a couple stories. You know, as a chaplain you go and you comfort those that are dying, so he's seen the trauma and he's held their hand as they've died. And I just want to know who's holding his hand? And, it's my mom.

TB: And you.

GW: And me. This play speaks to me on this whole other level.

TB: That was my reaction as soon as I watched the play. I have a cousin who is a female pilot who was grounded for medical reasons. She now flies UAVs, and I was immediately like 'You have to watch this,' I guess as a bonding experience to the people who are sitting in front of a screen, and the impact of engaging in war from a recliner.

More: Listen to an extended cut of their conversation by clicking play at the top of this page.

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