A landscape can add a powerful tone to any scene—a barren desert creates tangible loneliness, soaring peaks stir feelings of awe, and misty moonlit hills are ominously somber. Last month, Skyline High School’s theater arts program ran the production, “The Women of Lockerbie,” about the aftermath of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. The production team put their creativity on display with a realistic set meant to pull audiences into the story of grief and healing.
Set against a mountainous terrain, with crumbling stone walls and a flowing river, the play centers on the resilience of the women of Lockerbie, who resolved to wash and return victims’ clothes to their families as an act of healing and closure.
The production team behind the scenes created the play’s immersive world. Skyline theater arts teacher Jaclyn Fry was both director and scenic designer. She envisioned a set that would capture the somber mood of the play. But achieving her goal would take some creativity.
The set used various theater prop-building techniques and materials to ensure the details were as lifelike as possible.
“The rake—the inclined platforms which create the slanted deck surface—was covered with pounds and pounds of spare cloth goods and fabrics to create ridges and hills,” Fry said.
One of the most important set pieces was a water feature built into the rake to depict a stream.
“I wanted my characters to actually be able to really wash the clothing in the stream. There’s a dynamic, visceral aspect to that moment that I think adds to the ending,” Fry said.
The stream was a central fixture in the play, but creating moving water on stage was a challenge.
“For the flowing river, a complex setup involving pond liners, pumps, and meticulous checks every 15 minutes ensured its seamless presentation,” Fry said.
According to Skyline junior Eashwar Gopinath, the stream did make the play more lifelike.
“I think this set was very unique as they had a live river and usually they do not have a live set with real things like flowing water,” Gopinath said. “They even used the water in the end to clean some clothes which made it more realistic and cooler.”
The production team also created custom lighting to mimic the outdoors. For Shiven Juneja, a Skyline junior and one of the production’s backstage electricians, choosing the right shades for moonlight and sunrise was critical.
“The most demanding aspect for the lighting team was getting the specific gel color right,” Juneja said.
To recreate natural shades of moonlight, colored gels were layered on top of each other. The gels were then attached to lights that the production team would constantly reposition to highlight the actors in just the right way.
According to Brett Lorrain, a Skyline junior and one of the production’s backstage electricians, the set took enormous effort. Many students worked overtime to make sure it came together in time.
“It’s hard to give a good estimate of time but maybe 100-150 hours,” Lorrain said. “For only an hour and a half run time, the effort required to produce this show was astronomical.”
For Fry and her team, the time and attention to detail were worthwhile. And their hard work did not go unnoticed. For Gopinath, the production was special compared to other plays.
“There were also really great lighting effects to emphasize the difference between night and day and time of day,” Gopinath said, which “made me believe that this was one of the coolest sets I have seen.”