Edinburgh Fringe 2022
I Feel the Need
'The need for speed!' This thrilling cross between Fleabag and Top Gun is written and performed by Loree "Rowdy" Draude, one of the first women to fly combat jets for the U.S. Navy. Loree captivatingly recounts her path to accidental aviation pioneer as she takes the audience on a fascinating and exhilarating tour of the flights and fights of her life. Whether in the cockpit masterfully bringing her jet in for landing on an aircraft carrier, or navigating the adventures, humour and tragedies of life, Loree has what it takes to be a true 'top gun'.
Hi Loree, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping?
Hello! It’s a delight to talk with you. I’m thrilled to be in Edinburgh, and still pinching myself about performing at the Fringe Festival.
What has it meant to you to be at Edinburgh Fringe and Assembly Festival with I Feel The Need after everything that has happened?
It’s a dream come true. I’d heard of the Fringe but never thought I’d be here performing. Being here on stage is a gift that that came together in my life after my friend and fellow performer, Joanna Lipari (Activities of Daily Living at Gilded Balloon Teviot – she’s fantastic, go see it!) connected me with her producers, Mike Blaha and Niles Miles-Thomas of Fringe Management. I’m grateful to all of them, as well as my amazing director, Beth Bornstein Dunnington, for helping me bring my show to Edinburgh.
Where there any nerves ahead of your first show?
A few, but not as many as the first time I landed on an aircraft carrier.
In-between your show how do hope to get a chance to see other shows at the fringe?
Yes! I’m balancing self-care and staying physically healthy with seeing as many shows as I can. I’m aiming to see one show every day I’m here.
I Feel The Need premiered at the 2021 United Solo Festival Off Broadway winning Best Director for your director Beth Bornstein Dunnington, what was this experience like for you?
What a thrill that was! It was amazing enough to perform in NYC, and then to have Beth’s beautiful direction acknowledged with an award was icing on the cake. She’s been such a delight to work with as we developed the show together and I’ve learned so much from her.
Can you tell me a little bit about I Feel The Need, what made you want to create a show that comes from such a person place?
In Beth’s writing workshops, I found that people enjoyed my navy stories so I wanted to bring those to life. Also, when I’m not writing, I’m an executive and life coach, so I also felt creating my show was an opportunity for me to “walk the walk” and stretch myself. I help support people in making changes in their lives, so taking on this project gives me even more empathy for my clients’ challenges.
In the writing process what was the most challenging part of creating this show?
The most challenging part was deciding what not to include. It was tough to narrow down ten years of flying and over fifty years of my life into a one hour show. I wrote about my first navy deployment in my book, She’s Just Another Navy Pilot. I include some of those stories in the show, but I’ve added several others that were not in my book.
Has it been cathartic in some ways looking back at your history and experiences?
Absolutely. I feel grateful to have had the experiences I did, even though some were painful and difficult. It’s forced me become a better human being. Looking back helps me realize how much I’ve grown.
How important has the creative relationship between you and your director Beth Bornstein Dunnington?
It’s paramount. I would not be here today, doing this show without her sage guidance and skills. She lives in Hawaii, so with the time difference, I message her every evening to let her know how the show went. Now that I’ve settled in to performing the show, we chat each day about things I’m noticing, and tweaks that feel right to make.
"...I’ve discovered about myself is that I’ve become better at being unattached to outcomes. I’m loving this experience, performing for audiences at the Fringe..."
This show also honours your legacy as one of the first women to fly combat jets for the U.S Navy, where did your desire to fly jets come from?
As I mention in my show, I had no idea that I could be a jet pilot until I was in college. I had never been around aviation. I went on a field trip to some military air stations where I finally saw jets and helicopters up close. It seemed like a super cool environment and being a pilot sounded like a fun and challenging career. That field trip changed my life.
What has been the most interesting thing you have discovered about yourself and the theatre you want to create after writing and performing I Feel The Need?
The most interesting thing I’ve discovered about myself is that I’ve become better at being unattached to outcomes. I’m loving this experience, performing for audiences at the Fringe, and that’s what I focus on every day – giving the best performance I can. I’m not sure what’s next, after this run.
With a fringe show like this are you able to be flexible with your material when the show is running?
I am able to, because I’m basically talking about my life, but I stay true to the script. I don’t deviate from what I wrote, except for a few small tweaks, like changing degrees from Fahrenheit to Celsius.
Have you always had a passion for theatre?
I have. I moved around a lot growing up, and theatre always felt like a home for me. I’ve written and acted in plays since primary school. I enjoy telling stories and making people laugh.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
“This too shall pass”; which is usually said when someone is going through a difficult time, but it’s also true for happy and joyful times, and I appreciate that advice, because it’s a reminder to stay present. Don’t dwell on the past because it can’t be changed, and don’t worry about a future that hasn’t happened yet. Stay present and experience now.
Do you have any tips or advice for any young girls or women who are thinking about a career flying jets?
Do it! It’s an incredibly fulfilling career. Whether in the military or in commercial aviation, flying is a job that requires focus, teamwork, and mental strength: qualities that aren’t exclusive to a gender. There’s still a low percentage of women working as pilots, so I hope more girls and women will discover the joy of flying.
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from I Feel The Need?
I hope they’ll leave my show feeling like they were entertained while learning about an environment–naval aviation–that not many get to experience. I also hope my audiences are inspired to try things they might have been afraid to do in the past.