The Hippo


Jun 17, 2019








 See Grounded

Where: Derry Opera House, 29 W. Broadway, Derry
When: Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 1, at 2 p.m.
Admission: $20.

Being Grounded
Carey Cahoon stars in one-woman show

By Kelly Sennott

When Matthew Cahoon first read Grounded by George Brant a year and a half ago, he knew his wife would like it.
The play, which premiered in 2013, follows a gutsy fighter pilot whose life is put on hold when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant. By the time she gets back in the game, flying has a whole new meaning — now she’s operating remote-controlled drones in Afghanistan from an air-conditioned trailer at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. This is the need now, her commander tells her, but she believes it’s punishment for having a baby.
Carey Cahoon was an army brat, and growing up, she lived in Jordan, Yemen and, after a brief stateside stint, Bahrain, for her father’s army career. Grounded’s themes are also rooted in Greek tragedy, the basis of her undergraduate degree, tackling the struggle of returning home after war. She loved it.
“It has all the classical stuff I love, but it is really real, and it is really now,” Carey Cahoon said.
The real question: Could their New Hampshire theater company, theatre KAPOW, pull it off? Would they find an audience here? They decided to chance it at the Derry Opera House this weekend.
“We love the play. But there was still a reluctance,” Matt Cahoon said before a rehearsal at Pinkerton’s Black Box Theatre over sandwiches from USA Subs. “I don’t remember when we actually decided to put it in the season, but it still feels like a bit of a risk.”
Because first, it’s a one-woman show, which presents a lot of pressure for the actress and promotion work. How do you convince audiences to see a play with a woman talking to herself the whole time? 
“It’s terrifying,” Carey Cahoon said. 
It also presents a technical challenge. Their stage is an 8-foot by 8-foot platform, the smallest in KAPOW history, and behind the actress will hang television screens showing drone footage. 
“For a show with a chair and a platform, there’s so much color and there are so many visuals in the script. She’s talking about what she sees,” Carey Cahoon said. “The show is very contained to have almost this claustrophobic feel. … It’s this vast experience in this very small world.”
The play chronicles this transition and the realization of what this new flying method means as a pilot and civilian.
“[On a plane], you drop the bomb and you leave. When you’re piloting a drone, you see it on the screen, 18 inches from your face. So she can now see the violence. She can see the killing she’s doing,” Carey Cahoon said. “They’re incredibly removed and incredibly close. It’s so fascinating — this is what our world is coming to. We live and die by our little screens. … When she’s on leave, she takes her daughter to the mall, and all she can see at the mall are the cameras everywhere. Watching her. And that’s our lives now! That’s how we live. Everywhere we go, everything is witnessed. How much of our privacy do we give up and not even think about?”
Because of the challenges, the process of putting this show together started early. Carey Cahoon began studying lines late February, and not long after, the company began gathering drone stock footage and YouTube videos. 
“It’s probably the show I’ve read the most before entering in the rehearsal room,” Matt Cahoon said. “We are by no sense of the imagination done — there’s a lot more to do. Now we’re at the point where we have all the clips and we have to put them all in the right order.”
They enlisted outside help as well. Pinkerton student Nicole Porter, who’s attending NYU for film next year, cut the video, and Tayva Young and Nat Ward have designed lighting and soundscape, respectively. Weeks before the premiere, their two-hour press photoshoot was at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire amidst visitors and tours. 
Grounded presents a fictional story, but the themes and situations are all realistic. They’ve taken no shortcuts — Carey Cahoon called her dad early in the process for insight on her character’s costume and squadron — and they say the messages hit close for anyone whose life and career changed dramatically after having kids. Much of the play deals with the relationship between the pilot, her husband and daughter.
“She says at one point, ‘I was born to be a mother. It’s wonderful. But I was born to fly, also.’ And how do you reconcile those two things?” Carey Cahoon said. 

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