“Because of the scholarship, I was able to focus and do more theater, as opposed to (doing) theater, Harris Teeter and the café,” MacKillop said. “I can just focus on working in this department and on the thing I want to make my career out of.”
When putting together the production in Chason’s honor each year, everyone involved feels the weight and importance of the performance, said Kayla Brown, lead actress of this year’s Chason production.
“A Lillian Chason production, to me, always feels like we’re putting our best foot forward,” Brown said. “We’re trying to make something meaningful, not that we’re not always trying to make something meaningful with theater, but we’re trying to do the best that we can with what we have, and really try to make something memorable.”
Participating in Chason productions provides an added layer of meaning, said Ashley Owen, a former Chason Scholar who participated in the first production in 2014.
“It’s doing these shows that kind of brings a greater purpose to what you’re doing, and it just makes it really special to do shows in honor of Lillian,” Owen said. “Sometimes it’s hard to put into words how important it is and how impactful it was, because it’s something I still think about often. To do the show for her parents for the first time, I will never forget that experience.”
When selecting the play to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Lillian’s death, the committee wanted something relevant and powerful, Brown said.
“With Lillian Chason productions, we always try to choose shows with strong meanings to the climate around us,” Brown said. "We try to look for newer works that hold a lot of meaning and have much deeper qualities to them.”
The experiences of Vera Stark reflect that of Chason in some ways, in particular it showcases the importance of remembering people after they’re gone, Owen said.
“The first act, you watch her wanting to get this role, and then the second act is watching people today analyze her life and how that movie was impactful,” Owen said. “It’s really interesting to think about how it’s important to talk about people once they’re gone and to remember what’s important.”
While playing the lead role in this year’s production was exciting, the weight of this show was constantly felt, Brown said.
“It feels incredibly heavy,” Brown said. “I’m so grateful to play Vera Stark in this year's Chason production. I think about it all the time. I was so excited when I was cast. I never feel satisfied with my work, and I always know that I can do better, and I want to do better and make this production the best that it can possibly be.”
Chason’s legacy remains alive in many other ways. To honor her life and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of her death, her father, Eric Chason, released his book “Breathless” in September 2019. The book details his experience as Lillian was in the ICU.
Through the experience of losing a student so quickly, the dramatic art department and all involved consistently provide and voice their support for students, Brown said.
“We talk about her not even just in terms of the Lillian Chason production, throughout the year we talk about her,” Brown said. “I think since they have had a loss, it motivates them even more to support the students around them now, and help them make sure they feel supported, connected and motivated to be their best.”