The Hiding Place is off and running, having just finished its third week of performances. Opening weekend was a great success, not just because of a full house and a Jeff recommendation, though both very nice, but also due to some very special guests. We were lucky enough to not only have John and Elizabeth Sherrill, the authors of the book, come to the show opening night, but also stay for a talkback with the audience. The Sherrills have sold something like 50 million books world-wide, and written countless articles for Guideposts, where they’ve been on staff for over 50 years, among others. Their books have been adapted for film, radio plays, audiobooks, and theater. They also started their own publishing company, Chosen Books, 40 years ago. Successes aside, they were incredibly down to earth, funny, and more than gracious, with us as well as each other. It was truly entertaining, and inspiring, to witness the witty banter they’ve cultivated over 63 years of marriage and working together.
As someone who had been watching the play evolve over the previous month, it was interesting to hear the kinds of questions an audience member would have, having just seen it for the first time. It was also awesome to gain some insight into how this all began in the first place. Elizabeth Sherrill had gone to see Corrie ten Boom speak, and was so moved by her story, and felt it was so relevant, that she approached her afterward and asked if she would want to write a book. The rest is history. Anyone who has read this book can attest that you really feel like you know this woman, so to hear stories from people who actually did was a rare gift.
One of the most fascinating things I learned was actually born of an annoyance. One audience member asked what it was like to work with Corrie ten Boom, and the Sherrills answered that it was great, except for one small problem: she couldn’t remember details. They would ask her to describe what a person looked like, and she would give a description of their character. In one example, Elizabeth had asked Corrie to describe one of the men, and after several responses describing the kind of person he was, Elizabeth asked, “Yes, but what did he look like?” to which Corrie responded, “He looked like a man.” She wasn’t trying to be difficult, or make some sort of statement, she simply did not notice physical and material details. While they admitted that it was a wonderful trait in a person, to a writer, it was agonizing. It actually became a bit of a running joke between her and the Sherrills, eventually leading to her writing them from various locations, playfully describing her surroundings in vivid detail, to prove that she could.
Corrie was aware of her strong personality and tendency to be brusque. She was stubborn, but admitted when she was wrong and asked for forgiveness. She was a real person, and it made her more relatable to learn of her quirks. We were also able to learn a bit about Meyer Mossel, who is in both the book and the play. Elizabeth accompanied Corrie on a visit with him, and could attest that he was just as warm as he is described to be. During their visit, he gave Corrie the gold Jewish star he had been forced to wear during the Nazi occupation of Holland. He said he never knew, until that day, that the reason he kept it was to give it to Corrie. It is now in the Sherrill home in a frame; a little piece of history.
I love that I can say that, even after the rehearsal process is over and the play is in production, I am still learning about Corrie and her story. It reaffirms its relevance to history, literature, and people in general. And with each new medium and each new audience, it will continue.
For more information on the Sherrills, as well as Elizabeth Sherrill’s new autobiography, please visit http://www.elizabethsherrill.com/index.html