The Cal Poly Pomona Department of Theatre and New Dance will end its 2016-17 season with “The Women of Lockerbie,” the poignant tale of a town trying to heal from a tragic event.
The play opens Friday, May 19 at 8 p.m. in the University Theatre.
“The Women of Lockerbie” takes place seven years after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. A New Jersey mother of an American student roams the hills of Lockerbie looking for her son’s remains. She meets the women of Lockerbie, who are fighting the U.S. government to obtain the clothing of the victims found in the plane’s wreckage.
“The women want to wash the clothing and return it to the victims’ families,” says Bernardo Solano, director of the production and chair of the Department of Theatre and New Dance. “The play is primarily about these women from this community who understand how the simple act of washing the clothes of the victims is something tangible that they can do that will contribute to healing.”
It is the story of a community trying to heal from tragedy through an act of love and kindness. Solano says the story is universally relevant, but can be especially felt close to home in the wake of incidents such as the December 2015 shootings in San Bernardino. Just as the residents of Lockerbie were shocked that their hamlet in the Scottish lowlands could be a stage for an incident felt worldwide, so too were many people in San Bernardino.
Despite using the aftermath of a terrorist incident as a platform to display and discuss communal healing, Solano says playwright Deborah Brevoort’s work takes pains not to outright demonize the perpetrators.
“It’s important to me to emphasize that this isn’t about pointing fingers at terrorists,” Solano says. “Yes, it was a terrorist act, but the play focuses on the people affected by that act, and audiences might recognize the feelings of anger, helplessness, rage and guilt, and will stack themselves up against what they see the characters experiencing in the play.”
In the spirit of Brevoort’s work and real-life events, Solano says he’s dedicating his production to San Bernardino and Orlando, Florida, which experienced a terrorist-related shooting in June 2016.
“What happened in Lockerbie, Scotland, 29 years ago is what happened in San Bernardino two years ago and Orlando last year,” Solano says. “The difference in distance in both time and place is great, but the emotional distance is not.”
Solano says that he, like many others, “felt struck down” when he learned of the 2015 and 2016 attacks. As an artist and educator who focuses on community theatre, however, Solano understands how art can play a role in a community’s healing and generate empathy from communities near and far.
“What art can do is give us the vicarious appreciation of what someone is going through,” he says. “We hope no one will ever have to go through it, but by having experienced it along with the characters in the story, it’s a cathartic experience for us so that our empathy, patience and compassion grow exponentially for those people.”
In that vein, Solano brought the cast of “The Women of Lockerbie” to Cal State San Bernardino on May 2 to perform a reading of the play – an outreach effort that was the first of its kind for the Department of Theatre and New Dance.
Solano says he wants audiences to “feel a little closer to one another” after they see “The Women of Lockerbie.”
“The experience of a play like this gives us a chance to reflect and deepen our own sort of communal appreciation of our neighbors and anybody who goes through this,” he says. “Through art, we’ll be able to understand a little better what goes on for those people who are directly affected.”
“The Women of Lockerbie” will also be staged May 20, 25, 26, 27 at 8 p.m. and on May 28 at 2 p.m. in the University Theatre.
Tickets can be purchased online and are $15 for general admission and $10 for students, staff, faculty and senior citizens.
For more information, visit www.cpp.edu/~class/theatre-new-dance.