Brittany Suderman has no personal connections to the Holocaust, but playing a concentration camp guard in the current Gallery 7 Theatre production has given her some new insights.
The Hiding Place is adapted by Timothy Gregory from the book by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, which tells of Corrieâ€™s post-war mission to bring healing and forgiveness to victims of the Holocaust, and how her mission reaches a crisis point when she comes face to face with the man who turned her and her family in to the Nazi police during the war.
While Suderman was involved in a different adaptation of ten Boomâ€™s story before, but this time out the tables are turned and sheâ€™s playing a very different role.
â€œIt was amazing to be involved in that production and I have only learned more from being in this productionâ€¦ It has been interesting and stretching to be on â€˜the other side,â€™ as it were, as I am playing a Nazi this time around. Iâ€™ve gotten a different perspective of the play from my characterâ€™s mindset,â€ she explained.
Suderman plays Bull, a guard at the Ravensbruck work camp in Holland.
â€œI hope people see that there were more victims than just Jews in the Holocaust, not to degrade their suffering whatsoever,â€ added the 23-year-old Walnut Grove actor.
â€œBull is a straight-laced woman, faced with the job of keeping track of all of hundreds of prisoners at Ravensbruck. She is focused, determined, and has a zero-tolerance for rebels,â€ explained Suderman, who first took up acting in college a few years back.
â€œI wrestled with how I was going to depict her as those supervising camps were sometimes held there against their will as much as the prisoners themselves were,â€ she told the Langley Advance.
As another character states in the play, Sudermanâ€™s character is in a prison stronger than any physical one; she is in an emotional spiritual prison. Guards were plucked out of their lives, forced to show no sympathy or sent to the front.
â€œSee for yourself, come experience the story,â€ Suderman said, putting out the question to potential audience members: â€œCould you reach out and take the hand of the one responsible for causing so much hardship in your life?
The Hiding Place started last weekend, and the production runs this weekend, March 20-22, and next, March 27-29, at 7:30 p.m. with discount matinees at 2 p.m. on March 22 and 29. The theatre group performs in the MEI Auditorium, at 4081 Clearbrook Rd. in Abbotsford. Tickets and information are at www.gallery7theatre.com.
â€œIâ€™m pumped to be part of it,â€ said Suderman, who also draws, paints, took up hip hop dance five years ago, and describes acting as a hobby rather than a career aspiration. Sheâ€™s currently working as a barista at Starbucks.
â€œActing is just one of my artistic outlets,â€ she said.
Question and Answer with Brittany
Q. How long ago did you get involved with Gallery 7, why, and what was your first role?
A. I have been with Gallery 7 since the start of this 2013/2014 season in September.
After being so involved in acting while at college (she received her BA last April at Bethany College in Saskatchewan), I knew that Iâ€™d come home and miss it.
I knew about the theatre because my mom and her friends made it a tradition to see a Gallery 7 show every year.
So, when I came back I figured that Iâ€™d try my hand at acting with a more professional company.
Honestly, I auditioned hoping to get a backstage role. But in order to be placed in a crew role, you have to audition first for a cast role.
My first audition is a bit of a funny story.
I auditioned for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which had only two available female roles.
I came to the audition, was paired up with a partner and was shocked to see that not only was I auditioning first, but the scene that we were doing was a kissing scene!
I was super nervous but tried to have fun during the audition.
On my way out of the theatre afterwards, Ken (Hildebrandt) ran up to me and asked if I could hang around. I was both excited and anxious when I found out that they wanted me to audition again! I began to freak out for the next two hours as I watched everyone else audition before I went for the second time. Little did I know that they had a pretty good idea who was going to play Tom and they wanted to see us act together. I guess we did okay, because we were both cast!
So my first role was Becky Thatcher, a young girl, infatuated with young rebel Tom. Becky was the biggest role that I have and I had a ton of fun playing a kid. It was a fun play, amazing cast and wonderful supportive crew.
Q. What role/s are you playing in The Hiding Place? Please tell me a little about the character/s.
A. Often people can be type casted in theatre.
However, my two characters have been vastly different.
I am playing Bull, a guard at Ravensbruck, which is the work camp that Corrie and Betsie are sent to in Holland.
Bull is a straight-laced woman, faced with the job of keeping track of all of hundreds of prisoners at Ravensbruck.
She is focused, determined, and has a zero-tolerance for rebels.
I wrestled with how I was going to depict her as those supervising camps were sometimes held there against their will as much as the prisoners themselves were.
As another character states in the play, she is in a prison stronger than any physical one; she is in an emotional spiritual prison. Guards were plucked out of their lives, forced to show no sympathy or sent to the front.
I hope people see that there were more victims than just Jews in the Holocaust, not to degrade their suffering once so ever.
Q. Did you audition specifically for this role/s, or just the production in general?
A. Like my audition for Tom Sawyer, I really auditioned for fun.
I hoped, with the vast amount of roles in this production, that I would get a part; however I did not expect one.
I was involved in another adaptation of Corrie Ten Boomâ€™s story.
It was amazing to be involved in that production and I have only learned more from being in this production. It is always humbling to see the story continue to play out. It has been interesting and stretching to be on â€˜the other side,â€™ as it were, as I am playing a Nazi this time around. Iâ€™ve gotten a different perspective of the play from my characterâ€™s mindset.
Q. What strong similarities and differences do you share with the character you are playing?
A. Bull and I certainly live in different worlds, and different situations. We are both very stubborn and calculating.
Q. Why did you want to be involved in this particular production? What was it about Corrie ten Boomâ€™s story that made you want to be part of it?
A. Itâ€™s an amazing story of Godâ€™s love and forgiveness and it is a privilege to bring it to life.
Q. Tell me a little more about your acting career, how it got started, and what the draw is for you to be on stage?
A. Itâ€™s kinda sad, but, I grew up going to Walnut Grove Secondary, a huge wonderful school with a fantastic drama program.
However, I never auditioned or got involved because I was a shy girl, intimidated by the number of talented students.
So, when I went to college I thought Iâ€™d take a chance.
It was a college of 100 students, I knew my odds were better. So I auditioned and I guess you can say I was bitten by the bug.
I got the chance to work with an amazing director and woman who really became a huge spiritual, acting, and life mentor.
She encouraged me and gave me opportunity after opportunity to improve. I continue because I want to get better.
I love telling stories on stage, bringing the audience in to the story, being someone else, and escaping into another world.
Q. Is this what you want to do career wise, or is this just a hobby?
A. It is a hobby for me. At this point I look around and I see many other people who should make acting their career before me.
Q. Do you sing, dance, or have other artistic talents that augment your acting abilities?
A. Yes, acting was one of my later artistic endeavors. I love to draw and paint, I also did hip hop for over five years. So acting is just one of my artistic outlets.
Q. When were auditions for The Hiding Place, and when did rehearsals start? How often have you been rehearsing?
A. The auditions for The Hiding Place took place in January while Gallery 7â€™s show Having Hope at Home was still taking place.
So for the first month or so, our rehearsals took place in hallways and classrooms.
Since my character is only in the second act, I didnâ€™t really start going to practices until February.
Act I and Act II are two very different acts but both are needed in order to fully understand and tell the story.
We practise on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. with the addition of some Saturday rehearsals.
The closer to opening night the later and longer our practises have gotten. This week is always the most intense with three dress rehearsals and three performances (she said days before the curtain first went up).
Q. Whether youâ€™re a student or not, present is there a job that pays the bills for you?
I am a barista at Starbucks, and have been for almost five months. Itâ€™s a great job and I love interacting with the customers.
Q. Is it hard to juggle all thatâ€™s going on in your life right now with preparing for this show?
A. It takes some sacrifice, for sure, but it is well worth it!
Iâ€™ve received tonnes of flexibility and grace from everyone in my life, which is an amazing blessing!
Q. If you were to summarize for a friend what this play is about, and what it means to you personally, can you do that in 250 words or less?
A. In the midst of taking on her sisterâ€™s dream of ministering to those damaged by WWII camps, Corrie is confronted with the man who turned her family in to the police asking for forgiveness.
Corrieâ€™s memories come flooding back as the story unfolds from the beginning. Simply put, this play is about God.
It is because of His amazing love, powerful forgiveness, and incredible timing that allowed this story to take place.