A troupe begun by a core of recent Coastal Carolina University graduates with theater degrees will take big first steps through its premiere play, ready to help raise awareness for plights across a segment of the service personnel population.
Boots on the Ground Theater will present George Brant’s “Grounded,” geared to mature audiences, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday at Atlantic Stage, in Myrtle Beach Mall, at U.S. 17 and S.C. 22, near Briarcliffe Acres, and near the AMC (formerly Carmike) 12 cinema, between Victoria’s Secret, and Bath & Body Works. Tickets are $14, and available through 843-655-4953; 800-838-3006, Ext. 1; or groundedBOTG.brownpapertickets.com.
The director, John Patrick “J.P.” McLaurin, spoke about assembling this endeavor among a company of about eight and additional real-life education that comes with this entertainment – for the players and patrons.
Q: With your directing this production and just cast member – Mikayla Goetz – carrying the load on stage, playing an ace Air Force fighter pilot and expecting mother reassigned to 12-hour shifts in Nevada to man a remote control drone pursuing Mideast terrorists, what challenges come to play in conveying the character’s feelings and outlook on life?
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A: This is the the hardest experience I’ve faced as a theater artist. She’s on stage for 80 minutes nonstop, so it’s hard to keep her stamina going and the audience engaged. It’s the best kind of lesson for me as a theater major. ... We’re having fun. I went from directing a play last fall with 14 people and, for this one, it’s down to one. It’s a totally new experience for both of us. ... We’re constantly pushing each other. She and I have worked together as actors, so we have a certain shared dialogue.
Q: How did awareness of veterans’ issues take the focus, not only in the plot for “Grounded,” but in the discussions and material planned for after each performance, before the audience members each head home?
A: I was familiar with this play for the past couple of years. I first saw this play in New York City, starring Anne Hathaway, and I was taken by this story. Although I can’t necessarily relate to the narrative of military projects, what I really caught on to was being pulled in two deep directions. I know people with friends in the military, and our managing director ... said, “This is my father’s life; this is my brother’s life ...” I’m not interested in making theater with just what happens between the curtain going up and down. I’m really interested in opening up a dialogue over what this brings up ... for something more poignant and actually helping all of us understand.
I like to call it Act II; it really is the second act of the play, because there is no intermission. I want to explore the full theatrical effect: What does the audience get walking into the theater and what do they leave with? ... I had a teacher who would say, “The play starts when the curtain rises and it ends when you stop thinking about it.” I still think about plays I saw five years ago.
Q: The area just had another month-long “Military Appreciation Days,” which included a dinner dance May 25 by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 925 (www.vva925.org) attended by 206 people along with 49 wounded warriors as special guests. How happy are counselors from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Myrtle Beach Vet Center (available at 843-232-2441 Or 843-232-2441) to assist local veterans with more information on their everyday issues and with themes in the play “Grounded,” such as post-traumatic stress disorder, homecomings, stigmas, and parenthood and warfare and in making this show accessible for active duty service personnel and veterans who want to attend this play?
A: We have had a great partnership working with the counselors, and we’ve been talking with Chris Aranda and Dr. Curtis Lucas. They’re so interested in creating a partnership to help illuminate those themes, not only in the play, but in everyday live, ... also to deepen our own understanding as citizens.
This is just such an incredible experience after college. ... This is pushing the heartbeat of what we do and what we intend on doing. We’re curious not only about dialogue in this community, but also in other communities across the country.
Q: How might this debut locally through Atlantic Stage provide the springboard for more exposure with runs in other theaters across the Southeast, and possibly in connections with veterans service organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, and Marine Corps League detachments, for potential places to stage this play and discussions?
A: The great thing is we’ve gotten great encouragement from Atlantic Stage, which with “A Steady Rain,” just finished its ninth season, and Thom Penn and his wife, Mindi Penn, are incredible people, ... and Coastal Carolina University has been really great to us. ... It’s really fun to see fellow actors in this community support one another, and it has allowed us to work out kinks in rehearsing for “Grounded.” ...
We do intend on coming back to Myrtle Beach for more tour dates. ... We have performances booked for Fredericksburg, Va., in July.
Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.
If you go
BY: Boots on the Ground Theater, in debut play, geared to mature audiences
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
WHERE: Atlantic Stage, in Myrtle Beach Mall, at U.S. 17 and S.C. 22, near Briarcliffe Acres, and near AMC (formerly Carmike) 12 cinema, between Victoria’s Secret, and Bath & Body Works.
HOW MUCH: $14
INFORMATION: 843-655-4953; 800-838-3006, Ext. 1; or groundedBOTG.brownpapertickets.com