Women Of Lockerbie

What’s behind the set


Jell Marie Militante, staff writer

Women of Lockerbie, written by Deborah Beevort, is a VPAA produced play that originally planned to hit our stage in March of 2020.

When Covid-19 happened, it was postponed. The play is now scheduled for production three years later with a brand new cast, brand new approach, and more specifically, a brand new set.

“The show is about the 1988 crash of flight Pan Am 103 into the peaceful town of Lockerbie, Scotland,” said VPAA senior and Technical Director, Liam Castellano. “It takes place on the 7th anniversary of the crash, when a New Jersey couple comes to Lockerbie to grieve their son. The conflict, which is based on a true story, is about a group of Lockerbie women who want to wash the recovered clothing of the victims and return them to their families.”

Seniors Zoe Rodenas and Liam Castellano worked diligently to create this 3D digital mock up of the set to help figure out the dimensions and supplies they would need before creating the set in person.

This production also emphasizes the abstract journey of grief.

“I’ve honestly spent hours studying photos and news clips of Lockerbie and the aftermath of the bombing to get the feel of the story right. It’s important to remember that the play is set not right after, but seven whole years after the crash. Most of the world has moved on, but not Lockerbie. Scotland is somewhat frozen in time. Sure the wreckage is mostly cleared up, but the emotional scars are just as fresh as they were that day,” said Artistic Director Zoe Rodenas.

 Rodenas and Castellano are taking the lead in building this unique set with an emphasis on an important element of the play.

“The clothing becomes an important metaphor throughout the script, so we decided to take it to the extreme, in a sense. Instead of painting the set, the entire design is going to be covered with clothing,” said Castellano.

It is important to note that a lot goes on behind the scenes that most people do not realize.

“Set design is so much more than just building some walls and doors. We have to analyze the play, determine the needs implied in the script, develop a mood for the design, and then predict what ways the director might want to use the set. Creating an effective design is of utmost importance because the set is 90% of the visuals in a show,” said Rodenas.

The process of building the set has not been the easiest for the set builders so far. The director of the production, Theatre teacher Mrs. Sharon Byrd, has also requested that real running water is on stage because water is also another symbolic element of the piece.

The Artistic Director and Technical Director made sure to do the vital research necessary to most accurately convey the play that follows the real life tragedy.

“In our early design phases, Zoe and I had already determined that we wanted the stream to unevenly bisect the stage,” said Castellano. “But while discussing the stream’s surroundings, Zoe mentioned that in Ancient Egypt, the east side of the Nile was considered the land of the living, whereas the west was considered the land of the dead. We loved the idea that our stream represented the fragile line between life and death.

In terms of the technical aspect of this vision, after thorough analysis, a solution was found.

“We decided to have a combination of real water and blue clothes, but do so in a way that it creates the illusion of a continuous stream,” said Rodenas.

Historical facts were not the only knowledge the set designers pulled from, their own personal experiences were also considered as well.

“The ultimate goal for any set design is to create a space in which actors can tell a story. However, with this set design in particular, we’re really trying to convey how messy the grief process is,” Castelleno emphasized.

It was important for them to acknowledge through the set that grief is not always a linear process.

After creating a digital mock up seniors Zoe Rodenas and Liam Castellano created a to scale model of the set.

“Everyone handles grief in a slightly different way, and there are a whole spectrum of reactions that occur over time,” said Castelleno. “I saw this personally when my grandma passed away this past November. My brothers’ emotions were raw, unfiltered, genuine despair, similarly to the character Madeline. My mom took on much more of a helping role, coping with her own grief by helping others cope, similarly to the character Olive. I internalized my emotions and helped complete simple daily tasks while others were unable to do so, similarly to the character Bill. The set has a wide variety of shapes, textures, and colors, representing the messiness that grief causes.”

Overall, both Rodenas and Castelleno are grateful for the challenges the production has brought on so far.

“This project is a completely unique take on set design. It’s extremely rare to see a set decorated entirely with clothing items, never mind the process of getting there,” said Rodenas.

Women of Lockerbie is set to hit our stage March 17-18, 2023. More information can be found on the production’s Instagram page, @womenoflockerbie.