Theater at Monmouth plans to present two shows this fall for the series, “War: Then and Now,” featuring “An Iliad” by Lisa Peterson and Dennis O’Hare based on a translation of “Homer’s Iliad” by Robert Fagles, and “Grounded” by George Brant. Coming off the heels of the 2021 Summer Rep Season, these two plays continue the (R)evolutionary Redux Season as we take a look at two individuals who have seen and been through war, and back. Join this odyssey in “An Iliad” Sept. 2-11, and “Grounded” Sept. 16-26.

“An Iliad,” set in the present, a lone figure onstage, The Poet recalls the nobility, savagery, and valor of Trojan War battles and warriors, while exploring the human costs of war through the centuries. This tour-de-force adaptation of Homer’s classic poem weaves humanity’s unshakable attraction to warfare with the music of the muses, capturing the contradictory conditions of glory and violence with spellbinding modernity.

Visionary creators Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare have crafted a sprawling yarn based on Homer’s epic poem of love, battle, gods, and honor. TAM favorite Mark S. Cartier spent the pandemic months memorizing the words and getting the soul into his bones to perform this tour-de-force account of humanity’s unshakable attraction to violence, destruction, and chaos. Has anything really changed since the Trojan War?

Performance times are 7:30 p.m Sept. 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11; and at 1 p.m. Sept. 4, 5, 9 and 11.

“Grounded” tells the story of an American fighter pilot who becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she is reassigned to operate military drones from a windowless trailer outside Las Vegas. By day, she hunts terrorists. By night, she enjoys a quiet family life in suburbia. As the pressure to track a high-profile target mount, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert where she lives and the one she patrols half a world away.

George Brant’s “Grounded” explores the story of an unnamed fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force who becomes pregnant unexpectedly, forcing her to give up her wings. On returning from maternity leave, she’s co-opted into “the chair force” as a reluctant drone operator. “I stare at grey,” she says glumly; 12 hours a day, seven days a week. After each shift, she drives home to family life, a process that becomes increasingly dislocating. The play delivers a ferocious climax, as the pilot’s state of mind unravels.

Brant came across a photograph showing a fighter pilot in her mid-to-late 30s. She’s in her flight suit, carrying a helmet. She stares down the lens without smiling, both assertive and at ease, but the first thing you notice is her belly. Her suit’s open and she’s pregnant. Her bump is the same shape as her helmet. “It’s just this amazing photo: maternity, sexuality and the warrior.” Brant had needed an “in,” a figure to embody the dilemmas drones posed. As he says, “it’s very hard to write a machine as a protagonist.” The image helped the play fall into place.

The pilot was Maj Stephanie Kelsen, Vapor to her peers, and pregnant at 37. She’d been in the US air force for 20 years, one of the few women flying military jets, and was facing the possibility that she might not fly again. By the time she asked photographer Shlomit Levy Bard to take her portrait, her suit wouldn’t zip up. Behind her, the background is bleached out in a blinding white sky. The photographer told the New York Times that she had wanted “a feeling of the vastness that [Kelsen] experiences while flying”. Brant clung to that. His pilot struggles to sum up the sensation of flight. “You are the blue,” she stutters. “You are alone in the vastness and you are the blue.”

Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24 and 26; and at 1 p.m.  Sept. 18, 19, 26 and 27.

On choosing these plays in continuation of the (R)evolutionary Redux Season, Producing Artistic Director, and director of Grounded, Dawn McAndrews shares, “In part, I was looking for ways to honor veterans and their experiences; in part, I was looking for stories that explored the experience of war. I’m a parent of two young men who have grown up in a country continuously at war somewhere in the world, and sometimes closer to home. The war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on democracy, this is the state of our world. These two plays together through the words of The Poet and The Pilot, weave an experience of war and its consequences—both large and small.”

“An Iliad” features Mark S. Cartier as The Poet. Directed by Bill Van Horn; Set Design by Jim Alexander, Costume Design by Michelle Handley, Lighting Design by Erin Fauble, Sound Design by Rew Tippin, Stage Management by Aaron Louque.

“Grounded” features Amber McNew as The Pilot. Directed by Dawn McAndrews; Set & Lighting Design by Jim Alexander, Costume Design by Michelle Handley, Sound Design by Rew Tippin, Stage Management by Aaron Louque.

Tickets cost $36 for adults, $31 for senior citizens, and $22 for children. Family Show tickets cost $17 for adults, $12 for children. Due to limited capacity this year, individual tickets must be bought at a minimum of two tickets.

For more information, call the TAM Box Office at 207-933-9999 or visit theateratmonmouth.org.

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