Required reading and a close inventory of talent sent the One-Act Play team at Paradise High School on a different kind of adventure this school year.
“We graduated tremendous talent last year, a lot of our male actors,” said Karen Bohmfalk, PHS drama teacher and One-Act Play director. “We knew we wanted a play with powerful women’s roles, but in just about everything we came across, the story made the woman the victim. So we chose our own path.”
Bohmfalk, along with seniors Cimmiaron Alvarez and Katy Skogberg, wrote an adaptation of “The Hiding Place,” a book PHS sophomores read for their English class.
And despite the challenges the three faced in doing something not many schools do, their efforts advanced the school’s One-Act Play team to area competition, garnering a slew of honors along the way.
What started as a group of students meeting during the summer eventually dwindled to just Bohmfalk, Alvarez and Skogberg.
From July until mid-October, the playwrights gathered before and after school for up to three hours, three or four times a week to comb through every word of the book.
“We just started picking the parts that impacted us the most as we read it and then filed it down into an actual script,” Skogberg said. “That was the process. We went from the beginning of the book to the end.”
Set in Holland and Germany before and during World War II, the story is about the ten Boom family – father Casper and his unmarried daughters, Corrie and Betsie.
During the invasion of Holland, the Christian family holds steadfastly to their beliefs, helping the Jews hide from the Germans.
“They start taking the Jews in, and, of course, they develop the hiding place to protect them,” Skogberg said.
The German soldiers discover their operation and take the family to a prison – and later, a concentration camp.
“Father and Betsie both die in the process, and Corrie is the only one that makes it out,” Skogberg said. “So she’s the one that carries the message to the rest of the world.”
With this adaptation of the book, Paradise students aid in the spreading of the message, which students describe as “powerful.”
“We wanted something that was going to impact on a great scale, not just for One-Act Play, but beyond that,” Skogberg said. “This message and this story was something that a lot of the students could relate to because they read it in class, and is something they can take with them.
“That was the biggest thing – being able to do a story that left people with something.”
But that same ambition may have been the writers’ biggest challenge.
“We knew this story has subject matter that isn’t very popular these days and that we might land on some judge who found its message was trite,” Bohmfalk said. “We didn’t know how judges would take it … Some people just shut down or aren’t involved if it’s spiritual.”
“The message of the Holocaust, too,” Skogberg added. “There are a lot of people who still don’t like that either. But I think it was a risk worth taking.”
That subject matter is key to the story.
“That was the center of the show for the two women,” Bohmfalk said. “You really can’t write the show without it.”
“Their spirituality is what kept them from becoming hard, like a majority of other people did during the concentration camps,” Alvarez added. “They stayed true to themselves and true to their faith. That’s why it was so powerful.”
As a compromise, the writers made a concerted effort to limit the number of Bible verses included.
“That was a difficult part in writing, to make sure we didn’t put a million Bible verses in there,” Skogberg said. “We didn’t want it to be a sermon. We used the title verse and two others. But mostly in action instead of words, we wanted to create the story.”
As they crafted that story, the writers ran into other roadblocks. Although they preserved as much of the book as possible, modifications were made for the sake of time.
“We tried to take as much original dialogue as possible,” said Alvarez, who is also the OAP stage manager. “That wasn’t possible in all cases, so we had to create some of our own.”
The writers also merged characters and eliminated subplots to speed along the main story line.
“But we never change the message,” Bohmfalk said. “We change who said what and where they were when that happened.”
“Overall we get the message across,” Skogberg added. “We get mad at some movies whenever they change from the book, and then we started writing and realized why they do it. I have a whole new respect for that.”
The three also agreed it was a challenge to stay on track while writing.
“I wanted to follow the pattern, the mono-myth of the hero journey to an extent,” Bohmfalk said.
But it wasn’t until the writers overcame the obstacles and completed the script that they faced the ultimate challenge.
“What if it was bad? What if nobody likes it?” Bohmfalk said they wondered.
“All of the other plays have been performed before, so you know they have to be good somehow,” Skogberg said. “We didn’t know if this would appeal to anyone at all.”
But the ladies soon found out that it did.
As a matter of fact, it appealed to many – from officials with the UIL to the students who auditioned and the judges at competition.
After finishing the script, Bohmfalk spent more than a month polishing it before submitting it to the UIL for approval in late November.
“It took a long time to polish the stage directions and all that tedious work,” Bohmfalk said. “It was rough. We didn’t have any stage directions other than what we conceived ourselves. There wasn’t anything in a book. We had to create all the movement.”
With a go-ahead from the UIL, the director continued with casting in December.
“If nobody likes the story, they don’t come audition,” Bohmfalk said. “Fortunately, we did have kids come audition.”
After months of rehearsal, the cast and crew took their 40-minute production to contest, where they received their most telling affirmation yet.
At district competition March 19 in Graham, the Paradise show was one of two that advanced to area.
Judges also picked Skogberg as best actress and Daniel Alexander as best actor. Hope Dennie was named to the All-Star Cast while Alvarez and Janae McMurry were named to the All-Star Crew.
Juliana Smith received Honorable Mention All-Star Cast.
“It was good to get affirmation, to know that we’re not crazy,” Skogberg laughed.
At area competition last week, the play was named an alternate to regionals.
Skogberg and Dennie were named to the All-Star Cast while Alexander and Smith received honorable mention.
“It’s ended up nothing like we expected but everything that we wanted, which is really cool looking back now from the time we wrote,” Skogberg said. “Originally we had in mind a play that was focused on just the hero story, just that one character. In the process of all the cast members coming in and all the ideas that we’ve thrown out, we’ve really developed not just one person’s story, but a lot of people’s stories in the background.
“It’s developed into something that’s hit home for lots of different people,” she continued. “It doesn’t just fit to one specific person in the audience. We’ve morphed it into something that a lot of people can relate to. There are several key messages that really resonate with people. There are lines that go through my head when I’m not on stage and when I’m not thinking about One-Act Play.
“It’s not what any of us expected, but we like it. And we’re proud of it.”
CATCH THE SHOW
- Paradise One-Act Play will stage its adaptation of “The Hiding Place” in two community performances this month:
- 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at Paradise High School cafeteria, sponsored by the Paradise Historical Society and Paradise Chamber of Commerce.
- 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27, also at the PHS cafeteria.
- Both shows are free.
CAST AND CREW
- “The Hiding Place”
- adapted from the book “The Hiding Place”
- By Corrie ten Boom
- With John and Elizabeth Sherrill
- Play by Cimmiaron Alvarez, Katy Skogberg and Karen Bohmfalk
Cast – Daniel Alexander, Hope Dennie, Katy Skogberg, Lainee Hasty, Drake Young, Austin Medlin, Andrew Alexander, Faith Blankenship, Garrett Schneck, Devan McAsey-Perez, Alyssa McCutchen, Austin Ketchum, Michael Hasty, Julianna Smith, Kaitlynn Godwin
Crew – Cimmiaron Alvarez, Kyndal Baker, Heather McDuff, Janae McMurry, Jennifer Welch
Alternates – Cheyeanne Alvarez, Jamie Talley
Directors – Karen Bohmfalk, Georgia Headley, Megayla O’Rear