More than two decades after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Kevin Loomer found himself contemplating the events surrounding the terrorist attack that killed all 259 people on board and another 11 people on the ground.
It was last summer when Loomer gave a first read to the play "The Women of Lockerbie." At that same time, the bombing of the 747 that occurred over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, saw a resurgence in the media because of an act of compassion by the Scottish government.
"In August they let the fellow Libyan who was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing out of jail, he got cancer, so that he could die in his own country ... that news article came out about the same time that I was reading the play," Loomer recalled.
As he read through Deborah Brevoort's play -- which is loosely based on historical accounts of the victims' family members and local towns people who return to the crash site in search of personal items belonging to victims -- the Walla Walla Community College theater arts director realized that the play was graver than any previous productions he had seen produced on campus.
"This is a little hefty, and also the fact that she (Brevoort) has written in Greek tragic form it is not in the realm of what I am used to," Loomer said, adding that it would be a stretch for his drama students, who for the most part have been doing mostly "light-hearted" productions.
But even though "The Women of Lockerbie" is centered around a tragic occurrence, the play also has many uplifting qualities that take it beyond the scope of a tragedy, and possibly into the realm of a must-see production.
"I was moved by the story; it deals with issues of how do we work through grief and how do we work through issues of unforgiveness or hatred ... I personally believe this a real important piece. I fully believe that if people come with their hearts open to fully receive this thing, that they will leave with a gift," Loomer said.
The play centers around an American mother of a victim who has returned to the crash site, along with several Lockerbie women who have made it their goal to "convert an act of hatred into an act of love" by washing the clothes of the dead and returning those articles to the victims' families.
It is a serious play, one derived from a true tragedy. But for those who shy away from serious themes, Loomer also points out that "The Women of Lockerbie" is not truly a Greek tragedy and there is plenty of humor.
"You really, really need it," Loomer said, and added that along with some comic relief are strong undercurrents of hope.
"As a director, I have not let it end as hopeful as Deborah Brevoort said it should. I like the idea that it is hopeful, but there is still work to be done," Loomer said, noting he reworked only the lights and the script.
The setting is also a serene one, taking place in a rocky cove by a stream, which posed different challenges.
"It calls for running water on a stage, and I wanted to attempt that in the scene, but we have had two leaks so far," Loomer said.
There are some elements of Greek tragedy that are incorporated in Brevoort's work. The play is in poetic form. A Greek chorus is used. And as with traditional Greek tragedies, the actual tragic event is never played out on stage, but only described from witnesses.
"Terrorism is the tragedy of the day; it is kind of the thing we are dealing with right now ... But the end is very poignant, and it is not a tragedy in the truest sense of the word. It ends hopeful," he said.