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After tragedy, the  hard work begins

CONVAL DRAMA: Staging ‘The Women of Lockerbie’

  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

The stage is dark as a woman bursts onto the scene, panting harshly and ignoring the concerned calls of her husband behind her. She searches blindly, desperately, among the set of rolling green Scottish hills for some remnant of the son she lost years ago.

That’s the beginning of “The Women of Lockerbie” by Deborah Brevoort, a play that takes a look at the aftermath of a tragedy, and the healing of grief. It’s a tough subject for high school students to address, but ConVal Drama has taken up the challenge. On March 14, the students of ConVal Drama will present the play to the public, before taking it on to the N.H. Education Theatre Guild Festival, where they will compete with students of other schools.

Director Deborah Thurber said that originally she began to audition for Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” a play about the Salem witch trials. But the further she got into auditions, the more it seemed as though nothing quite fit. The cast wasn’t a good fit, the play was too long, and overall it just felt off, Thurber said during a rehearsal of the play Monday night.

“I just thought, ‘My heart is not in this play,’” said Thurber.

Thurber went back to the drawing board and she found “The Women of Lockerbie.” The play is based on the real-life aftermath of the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland, which killed all 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 people on the ground.

The play combines the story of a couple who lost their adult son in the bombing and the women of Lockerbie who are trying to heal from the tragedy. As the couple is desperately trying to find closure over the death of their son whose body was never recovered, the women of Lockerbie are finding their own healing in collecting the clothing of the victims from the crash site, to wash and return them to their families.

The play resonated with Thurber, she said, especially as it centered around the grief that comes from the loss of a child, and she chose the play shortly following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. Although she knew that the story would be more raw and visceral for both the audience and the cast, coming so close on the heals of the shooting, she said that as an artist and a director that’s also what made her want to tackle the project.

And when she presented the story to the cast, they unanimously decided that this was the story they wanted to tell as well.

Cailin Ennis, 17, of Hancock, who plays Olive, one of the Lockerbie women, said it was difficult to take on such serious subject matter. “It’s an interesting challenge that our director has given us, to step out of our adolescent restraints and take on things that adults have to face,” she said. “We’re challenging our level of maturity, to take on the show and really tell the story that this show is: a memory of what people go through when they lose something.”

Genna Weidner, 16, of Dublin plays Maddie Livingston, a mother who has come to Lockerbie on the seventh anniversary of the crash, and is desperately trying to find some trace of her son, Adam, who was sitting in the plane directly over the bomb.

“Obviously its difficult as high school students to imagine losing so much,” said Weidner of her character. “We have to compare it to aspects of things we’ve lost in our own lives, and hopefully we’re able to portray the grief and loss that we’ve had, and get the story across in that way.”

Several of the students said that although the Lockerbie crash happened in 1988 before they were born, they were able to draw from the experiences of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and especially the recent Newtown shooting to get into the proper mindset.

Ennis said that though the first half of the play focuses heavily on the grief and impact of the tragedy, the second half of the play shows its true message of finding glimmers of hope.

“It’s hard to challenge everyone to get past the grief and hate and anger and really open up towards one another and find the strength to move past it,” she said. “Finding things like this and rising above tragedy and trying to be the best people we can be, instead of resorting to hate and violence, is a strong message.”

Somerset Young, 15, of Hancock, who plays Bill Livingston, agreed. “We’re doing this play because there’s a real reason for us to do it,” he said. “We have to show the humanity that’s involved.”

ConVal Drama will present “The Women of Lockerbie” in ConVal’s Lucy Hurlin Theatre on March 14 at 7 p.m. A donation of $5 is recommended.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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