Kerry Cahill looks to the sky in Southern Rep’s production of “Grounded”


John B. Barrois

Kerry Cahill stared in a one-woman show for Southern Rep Theatre's production of "Grounded," written by award-winning playwright George Brandt. Performances ran from Nov. 2 to Dec. 3 in Loyola University’s Lower Depths Theatre. (Courtesy of John B. Barrois)

Tyler Wann

Loyola alumna Kerry Cahill starred in a one-woman show about a fighter pilot whose unexpected pregnancy lands her a job as a drone pilot.

Southern Rep Theatre company and Loyola’s theater department collaborated to bring George Brant’s play “Grounded” to the stage, which was Cahill’s first performance back at Loyola as an alumna. She got her start in New Orleans out of Loyola and currently acts in movies and TV, appearing in works such as “Battleship,” “Free State of Jones” and “The Walking Dead.” She said she was pleased to be back on campus and working with Loyola’s theater department once again.

This single-actress format provided its lead with both challenges and opportunities in preparing for the role. The play is written in a style all its own, doing away with any sort of verse or formal structure, a factor which, according to Cahill, made the show somewhat difficult to learn. Yet, as Cahill detailed, the most extensive preparation was not memorizing the script, but getting inside the head-space of a drone pilot.

Cahill set out interviewing drone pilots and doing extensive research into what the job actually entails. She said she was able to get inside the minds of the people who work these jobs and use those details to make her performance more authentic.

“Where people pause becomes more important than what people say,” Cahill said.

While the format of the show may be unusual, the themes it explores are anything but. The classic questions of identity and morality are presented clearly throughout the play. But the show also explores some topics that are not as often touched upon, namely, that of surveillance.

The show questions what it means to live in a world where we are either constantly watched, or are constantly watching, as an “eye in the sky.”

“There are a lot of cameras out there,” Cahill said when asked about what she had learned from her preparation.

Cahill said the play is not only meant to entertain but to educate as well. This is a “small window” into what those pursuing a military career have to go through, according to Cahill.

“A very small number of people are paying a very large price, and you owe it to them to try to understand where they are coming from,” Cahill said.

The issues the play discusses are those of the next generation, those that don’t yet have an answer. According to Cahill, “Grounded” is the first step to finding that solution to the problems of modern surveillance and privacy vs. security, which is to acknowledge and understand these problems.

The next Southern Rep performance will be “The Sweet Bird of Youth” by Tennessee Williams taking place from March 21 to April 15 in the Loyola’s Lower Depths Theatre.