Those who attended The Women of Lockerbie April 27-28 received an incredible honor: an opportunity to discuss the play with the playwright herself, Deborah Brevoort. Several months ago when SBU first applied for performance rights for The Women of Lockerbie, Brevoort contacted assistant professor of communication arts in theater Dr. Elissa Sartwell, asking if she could attend the performance and host a post-show discussion. Sartwell jumped at the chance because it is not every day that a theater production can host a playwright. The post-show discussions occurred on Friday and Saturday evening. Substantial crowds attended both evenings’ discussions, making for a memorable event.
After the audience had been taken on the emotional roller coaster of The Women of Lockerbie, Brevoort began by discussing her inspiration for the play. On the ninth anniversary of the crash of Pan Am 103, in 1997, she viewed a documentary about the “Laundry Project” on Nightline. The Laundry Project involved women of Lockerbie, Scotland washing all the clothing of the victims of the crash so that it might be returned to the victims’ families.
Brevoort realized that the story of the Laundry Project had all the parts of a classical Greek tragedy. She took out her copies of Sophocles and Euripedes (writers of Ancient Greek tragedies) and began to write, using her imagination as her guide.
Brevoort was asked if the characters in the story were actual people. In an effort to not create “docudrama,” which is a play structured to line up exactly with historical events, Brevoort let her mind run wild and create each of the characters in the play.
“Writing is a way I learn things—how I explore what I don’t know,” Brevoort said.
She wanted to understand the story of these Scottish women washing all 11,000 articles of the victims’ clothing and how they brought themselves to wash. It came from an internal desire to turn a horrible thing into a beautiful thing.
“[I believe that] imagination is able to lead us to deeper truths,” Brevoort said. “I wrote the characters from the inside out and embodied each of them, in order to give them their due integrity.”
She wanted to get inside each of their heads and find their motivations and desires to give them a fair shake, not writing off any character as the true “bad guy.”
Audience members asked wide ranges of questions pertaining to foreign policy, Brevoort’s intent in writing the play and about stories of lives changing as a result of viewing The Women of Lockerbie.
The playwright said that she had experienced grown men running up and embracing her, crying into her shoulder. Through the play and ensuing discussion, audience members generally left fulfilled and joyful, having been broken by the depiction of forgiveness and redemption that was presented in The Women of Lockerbie.