A Story of Grief and Love

Fourth Estate/Nayomi Santos

Mason Players perform “Women of Lockerbie”


Set in the rolling hills of Lockerbie, Scotland, the play “The Women of Lockerbie,” written by Deborah Brevoort, depicts a story of grief and its everlasting impact. The Mason Players, under the direction of junior theater major Em German, performed this tragic play in Theaterspace from Feb. 27 to March 1. 

On Dec. 21, 1988, a Pan American flight on its way to New York crashed over Lockerbie just minutes after departure from London. The crash killed everyone on board and 11 others; it was later discovered that the accident was caused by a bomb explosion on the plane. 

“The Women of Lockerbie” takes place seven years after the disaster. Bill Livingston (Joshua Vest) and his wife Madeline (Deema Turkomani) journey to Lockerbie seeking closure by looking for their son’s body, which was never found. Madeline, especially, continues to suffer from the same grief and shock she experienced when she first heard the news. Turkomani drifts on and off of the stage as she searches for her son in the hills. 

In line with Greek tragedy, Woman 1 (Rosalind Chan) and Woman 2 (Luisa Romero) play Lockerbie locals who were on the ground during the day of the crash. Throughout the play, they support the other characters during monologues and also provide the Lockerbie perspective of the crash for the audience. They are led by Olive Allison (Paisley LoBue) who has been at odds with a U.S. emissary, George Jones (Darren Bradley). 

In a post-performance discussion with the cast, crew and playwright, the audience got a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the play and the Mason Players’ performance. 

“During table work, like first week of production, we had a whiteboard and we talked through the play and the kinds of themes to go for and how the audience would interpret it,” German said. “We came up with a phrase, we were racking our brains trying to figure out how to describe this: international ostrich syndrome.” 

“I think there is something in [the American] DNA that is always looking forward and not looking back,” Breevort said, “because we have a very short history about a whole lot of things, I mean things that you would think that we know but we don’t.” 

The Lockerbie crash is an incident that has been long forgotten in the American perspective. George embodies this indifference and tendency to look ahead. Those who witnessed the crash and were impacted offer another perspective. Following Olive’s lead, they want to return the clothing collected after the crash to the victims’ families — despite George’s plan to incinerate the items. 

“Madeline is not an uncommon character. We have a lot of Madelines. There were Madelines in New York City after 9/11. We had a lot of Madelines in Lockerbie,” Breevort said. 

Loyal to the Greek format of the play, Hattie (Erin Cleary), a Lockerbie woman employed by George, delivers a powerful performance as the tragic messenger. 

The cast faced challenges in portraying characters who have experienced such loss. The difficulty of portraying such intense grief weighed heavily on the entire crew. Turkomani said that they had occasional game breaks during rehearsal to offset the emotional drain put on the actors. 

“I think that was — and still is — something that is difficult for us and was initially difficult for us to even think about, taking on personas of people who have experiences that we cannot imagine,” said LoBue. 

Also during the talk, German mentioned that a victim’s father spoke to the cast and crew and provided an important perspective and depth for the cast to grasp when getting ready for their roles. 

The crew also found solace in each other.“Working with the entire cast, I thought it was easier to cope with going into cold water, not knowing what to do,” said Chan. “Because we all kind of grew together into what we needed to do as a cast to portray something fairly.” She also drew from her own experiences with loss or injustice in her life to play her role. 

The father character, Bill Livingston, had to be a rock for his wife during the years following the loss of their son. The actor Vest had difficulty playing with such detachment from grief. 

“The hardest thing I had to go through was I couldn’t read the play without getting emotional,” he said. “The biggest challenge I had was finding that numb[ness] to carry up until the final moments of the play. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Finding that grief to portray every night, it’s intense and hard to do, but [German] guided us.” 

Much like the cast and crew on the first table read, members of the audience were also brought to tears by the conclusion of the performance. The actors transformed the tragic story into one of hope and community when the women of Lockerbie kneeled and began to wash the clothes of the victims.