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Commuting to War: A Personal Look at Drone Warfare

Free play contrasts military and family roles of former ace female fighter pilot

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “Grounded,” a one-woman play about a fearless American fighter pilot suddenly reassigned to operate military drones in the pursuit of terrorists half a world away, will run from Sept. 19 to Oct. 12 at Northwestern University.

The play marks the seventh season of ETOPiA: Engineering Transdisciplinary Outreach Project in the Arts, an outreach initiative that seeks to inspire cross-disciplinary dialogue about the role of science and technology in society.

Performances will take place in a high-tech classroom located in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, where engineering students spend much of their time in lectures, team meetings and the prototyping lab.

The play is free and open to the public with advance reservations strongly recommended.

Each performance will include a post-show discussion led by Northwestern faculty and students.

“Grounded” tells the story of an F16 fighter pilot whose career takes an unexpected turn to keep up with technology. Repurposed to flying remote-controlled drones in the Middle East from an air-conditioned and windowless trailer near Las Vegas, the pilot struggles through surreal 12-hour shifts far from the battlefield, hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night. 

“She wakes up in the morning, makes breakfast for her family and drops her daughter off at day care,” said Matthew Grayson, producer of the annual ETOPiA event. “Then it’s off to work to kill the bad guys. It’s psychological whiplash.”

Grayson is an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Written by George Brant, “Grounded” will feature Elizabeth Laidlaw. John Gawlik will direct.

Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays Sept. 19 to Oct. 12 in the ITW Classroom of the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, 2133 Sheridan Road, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

For reservations and more information, go to ETOPiA or call 847-324-3296.

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