Sopris Theatre Company’s production of ‘The Women of Lockerbie’ opens this weekend
If You Go...
Who: Sopris Theatre Company
What: ‘The Women of Lockerbie’
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 13-14, 19-21; 2 p.m. Feb. 15 and 22
Where: New Space Theatre at CMC Spring Valley
How Much: $15 for adults, $10 for students, seniors, staff and faculty
On Dec. 21, 1988, a plane flying from London to New York City exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed — including 189 Americans — as well as 11 people on the ground. The cause of the explosion was a bomb placed by two Libyan terrorists.
At the time, the bombing of Pan Am 103 was the deadliest act of terror against the United States. But one aspect of the aftermath that is often neglected by history is the strong community built up around the victims’ family members and the Lockerbie residents who witnessed the tragedy.
That is what “The Women of Lockerbie” explores. Sopris Theatre Company’s production of the play opens at 7 p.m. Friday and runs through Feb. 22.
The play tells the story of the women in Lockerbie fighting the American government for the Pan Am 103 victims’ clothing seven years after the crash. The clothing has been in a warehouse all that time, and the government intends to burn it as part of standard procedure. The women need to wash the clothing and return it to the victims’ families as a way to heal.
“The Women of Lockerbie” does take creative liberties, but the sentiment and the general story are true to history.
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“What is historically accurate is that the women of Lockerbie really did get the clothing from the victims and really did wash everything and return it to the families,” said director Wendy Moore. “A goal that I had in this piece is to honor these people — every one of them: the mother who’s never gotten over it, the women who were there, even this man from the government who came in to try to close down the operation and move forward, to honor that because in every one of these situations, there are real people like that.”
In addition to the women of Lockerbie, the play tells the story of grief that a mother and father face after losing their son in the crash. Madeline, played by Kelly Ketzenbarger, and her husband Bill, played by Bob Moore, deal with their loss very differently. Madeline has wept for seven years, the grief nearly driving her mad, while Bill has played the part of stoic husband, taking care of the logistics of death while never shedding a tear.
“It touches on themes of individuals’ grief processing: how they process it individually, and then how they process it in relation to other people,” Bob Moore said. “My character probably needed to process his grief, but he couldn’t because in that particular relationship, he was the one that had to be strong, had to be there and had to watch his wife process her grief in a much different way.”
In the play, Madeline and Bill are in Lockerbie for a memorial service. Bill hopes coming to the site of the crash will give his wife closure, but as their son’s body was never found, nor his belongings, closure is out of reach. Madeline wanders the hills of Lockerbie calling her son’s name in a frenzy of disbelief that he is gone.
While they’re in Lockerbie, they meet some of the women who witnessed the crash and even lost loved ones because of it. They find solidarity in their shared pain, and they’re able to see the tragedy from a new perspective.
“There’s a beautiful message of love, support and community, much like after 9/11 when we experienced a growth of faith, love, kindness and community,” said Sharon Brady, who plays one of the women of Lockerbie. “That’s very apparent in this piece, and a really beautiful component.”
While the play focuses heavily on how tragedy affects its victims, there are some political components.
“Some of the themes about the government and American policies in foreign areas and how we are perceived in other countries may give the audience a little bit more of a clear perspective of how we are,” said Monica Morgan, who plays one of the women of Lockerbie.
“The political angle is not altogether incidental to this play,” said Gary Ketzenbarger, artistic director for Sopris Theatre Company. “You come to the conclusion that retribution just doesn’t work. I bomb your airline, you bomb my airline, and on and on it goes. There has to come an end point, which, as the play points out thematically, is not hate, but actually resolution and love.”
Wendy Moore said if you were alive at the time, you know where you were and what you were doing when Pan Am 103 crashed. It’s one of those tragedies that stays with you. But even more modern events have maintained the play’s relevance, including the attack on the World Trade Center and subsequent War on Terror, and the recent downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by Ukrainian separatists.
In light of these acts of violence and countless others, there is always grief, but something else always comes out, too: hope.
“The play deals with something that’s very heartbreaking, but there’s so much hope,” said Wendy Moore. “These people find their way through this, and everybody does when faced with something horrible. You find your way through.”
“And the realization that this really happened, that these women actually did this — and the clothes weren’t neat, tidy clothes out of the luggage bin; it had to be a very traumatic situation — the way they all pulled together through it to show love to people they didn’t even know was really amazing,” Morgan said.
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