The Fan | Theater from the Heart, we call it! Recently, a talk show host asked, “Why did you think to set Corrie ten Boom’s story, The Hiding Place, to music?”
Others have also wondered, until they hear the songs from our play, “Ten Boom the Musical.”
In fact, I and my real-life sister and musical co-writer, Donna Marquean Griggs, pulled material from more than just that one book.
A Musical Family, for sure!
The ten Boom family was actually very musical, like the family in which Donna and I grew up! Many played musical instruments and sang. Corrie’s nephew, Peter van Woerden, was a master organist and music director for a Dutch Reformed church in The Netherlands.
The ten Boom’s were known for inviting musicians to their home, to “jam” on many evenings. Of course, it was mainly classical music. Musicians, coming and going, turned out to be a good cover for people in the Dutch Resistance. Some even carried instrument cases as they entered or left the house at odd hours. For a few years, the Ten Boom’s were able to hide and transport more than 800 Jewish people. And Nazi’s were none the wiser! Music turned out to be a life-saver for many.
The gift of a new radio was a treasure for “Papa” ten Boom, on the 100th Anniversary of the clock shop. It allowed their much-loved symphony music to “fill the house with joy.”
Donna and I have loved good theater all our lives, although from somewhat different perspectives. Actually, it made our partnership in the writing of the musical work even better. Of course, we grew up singing and loving music, but the theatrics—the “mechanics” of theater—was a challenge.
The Mechanic and The Fan
Of the two of us, I was always the “drama queen,” so to speak; hoping in childhood to become an actress. Donna was more level-headed, more interested in just enjoying the story and characters in good plays and movies. She was a true fan—one of those people who can make or break a good film or stage play!
While Donna was more apt to be moved emotionally by a performance, I tended to love the technical aspects. I was always into the acting, the script; how it all comes together, etc. Having been on the road as a performer many years, I had trouble just watching other performers without much critique. I admit MY perspective could ruin a good performance for someone just wanting to enjoy it!
As Donna and I came together to bring the script and songs to life, I valued and trusted her thoughts and perspectives, more and more. As we wrote, if the lines in the script or a song made her cry or laugh or get angry (in character), I knew we were on to something.
Fans and audiences should be touched emotionally, somehow; or something is lacking in a play or film! They are the necessary ingredient in a success or failure in The Arts.
So, in 1997, we two sisters, two best friends, brought our unique perspectives together. We had fun putting music to the miraculous story of Dutch evangelist and Nazi Holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom. And, it made for a wonderful stage play!
We were sharing an apartment in Nashville for many years, as we had shared a room at home as little girls growing up. Only now, we had our own “big girl” rooms and spaces. It also gave us plenty of time to work on the play.
A Jewish “Fiddler” and a Christian Holocaust Survivor
The play had been on my mind and heart for many years, since coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah in 1984. I had performed in “Fiddler On The Roof,” many years before, portraying Tzeitel, the eldest daughter. Also, I was blessed to choreograph the play for the Maryland Community Theater back east. Now I wondered, “Why can’t Corrie’s story be told in a musical play as big as “Fiddler?”
But, if the idea to write “Ten Boom” was there for years, the project remained mostly untouched until 2009. It was then we took actors into a recording studio to do a read-through of the initial script. The songs had been arranged and recorded, two years earlier.
Donna and I had sung harmonies with our older sister Judy and another friend, growing up. Later, we were able to perform in the wonderful, “Passion Play at Two Rivers” in Nashville, for over twenty years. We loved the first century costumes and the majestic choral arrangements. Mostly, we loved sharing the gospel (good news) with thousands, as we portrayed characters who walked with Jesus.
So, How Did We Write the Musical?
Today, when people ask how we wrote “Ten Boom the Musical,” I tell them this. “We took an amazing true story, some said was too sad or dramatic to become a musical. After all, was “Fiddler On The Roof” not also dramatic?” The Jews suffered much always. And what about musicals like “Les Miserables,” “West Side Story,” “The Color Purple,” even “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.? Sad things happened in those plays, too; but most ended on a high note.
“Ten Boom” was written to show the heart and joy of a woman and others who found victory, even in the darkest time in history.
I’m a “mechanic,” a singer/writer who loves to put words and pieces of a story puzzle together to touch hearts. Donna’s musical interests and instincts, along with her trusting heart helped make it all work right. You see, Donna is the perfect “fan”—someone who assesses the worth of a film, a play, a character, in a unique way.
Together, it all worked to make our play, “Ten Boom the Musical,” theater from the heart!