Longtime Bellingham director and actor Shawn Fuller directs "Women of Lockerbie," a story inspired by the 1995 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which devastated the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, opening Friday, April 11, and running through April 27 at Bellingham Theatre Guild.
Fuller is married to award-winning playwright, director and actor Sean Walbeck. Their marriage ceremony took place on the guild's stage in 2002, and together they are known affectionately as The Shonz. Shawn talks about her life on and off stage.
Question: When did your life in theater begin?
Answer: My father was going onstage when my mom went into labor. My Dad taught high school drama, so both my sister and I were the kids in many of his productions. I continued doing theater in high school, then college, then in Seattle and then at Western Washington University to get my master's degree.
I met Sean (Walbeck, my husband and cofounder of ANBAHAR's Black Market Theatre) here, and I stayed.
I've directed, acted, produced, designed, stage managed and have been on a board or two here in Whatcom County. I've taught theater classes at Whatcom Community College and WWU.
Q: Who have been some of your mentors?
A: My father: Gave me a start and good education in acting.
Maureen O'Reilly: Grounded me in language and how movement worked onstage.
Alton Grimes: His love and commitment to all things theatrical renewed my faith every time I got to work with him.
Sean Walbeck: His dedication to his art and his willingness to mentor talent, in all forms but specifically playwriting. is amazing!
Teri Grimes, Marla Bronstein, Sally Lubetich and Lyla Tjoelker are women in this community who have dedicated their artistic lives to Whatcom County. No matter what else they are doing in their lives, they make time and give of themselves and their talent. And they rock the house!
Q: What's this play about?
A: In 1995 the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, held a vigil for those who died, in the air and on the ground, from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 seven years earlier.
Loosely based on The Lockerbie Laundry Project (the local women's struggle against red tape so they could wash and return the victims' clothing to their families), the play follows the women of Lockerbie as they try to help an American man search for his wife who, in turn, is searching the hills of Lockerbie for some sign of their son, Adam, a victim from the explosion.
Q: Why did you decided to direct the show?
A: "The Women of Lockerbie," by Deborah Brevoort, was the buzz play at the American Association of Community Theatre Festival competition a few years ago, so Sean got the script and read it to me during a trip to Seattle, where we both ended up crying and we couldn't stop talking about the play. Since that day I have wanted to direct it.
Q: Why is it important?
A: It is a story of women coming together and finding a way through a tragedy that changed their lives. It takes one on an emotional journey through tears, laughter and finally to a place of hope. It is what drama does best - it makes one feel and come through that experience like a ritual - released, maybe just a little lighter and a part of a united community.
Q: How are rehearsals going?
A: I'm working with an amazing group of theater practitioners! I have 12 women who have learned a Scottish accent and how to speak in unison.
Nicole Winkler as Madeline and Alan Peet as Bill, the Americans, will break your heart.
Joan Prinz, as the feisty Hattie and Ben Perry as the uptight George are very funny.
Sarah Michelson is dynamic as Olive who holds these disparate stories and people together.
Joe Super, construction master extraordinaire, with the help of his dedicated crew took my basic drawings and created a beautiful Scottish highland.
Dee Dee O'Connor is doing beautiful things with light, and Marie Wildfield, our truly gifted costume designer, will be working as a professional designer next season.
Q: What do you like about living in Bellingham? Is there life outside theater for you?
A: Lively theatrical community including dance, improv, new works, great stuff for and by kids. Great places for meandering walks, especially the waterfront. Great restaurants; we love to eat and do crosswords on nice big tables. Lots of family here. Napping with cats.
"Women of Lockerbie" opens Friday, April 11, at Bellingham Theatre Guild, 1600 H St., and runs through April 27. Curtain is 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets, $12 general, $10 students and seniors, $8 youth, can be reserved at 360-733-1811. Details: bellinghamtheatreguild.com.