Area dramatist shares stories of faith, hope and courage
Susie Boer, of Snohomish, does performances for small groups to tell the histories of real-life heroes of faith, such as
Corrie ten Boom, who hid Jewish people from the Nazis during World War II (Boer costumed as ten Boom above).
SNOHOMISH — In distressing times, people may find their faith and hope severely tested. They need encouragement and exhortation.
They need good stories.
Since 2008, Snohomish-area dramatist Susie Boer has donned the period clothing and appearance of courageous Christian women and performed one-woman shows in a variety of venues. With about 12 characters in her current repertoire, Boer calls her “Faith Heroines Alive” ministry a passion and hopes her work will strengthen the faith of those who attend her performances.
Her first and best-known characterization is that of Corrie ten Boom, the middle-aged Dutch woman who, along with her family, hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II.
By popular demand, and following the suggestions of others, she’s added other heroines along the way. Lately, she’s also taken on stories of outstanding Christian men, such as English slave trade abolitionist William Wilberforce or Brother Andrew, who smuggled Bibles into Communist countries. Sometimes she tells the men’s stories in the third person, or by portraying the heroes’ wives and friends.
“Give me a good story and I’m like a fish who’s gotten back in the water,” she said.
Prior to Covid-19, Boer would do 10 to 12 performances a year in Snohomish County and about the same number outside of the county. The pandemic changed all that: “In 2020, everything got canceled,” she said.
Boer’s drama ministry has been a lifetime in the making. The daughter of a Midwest history teacher, who was also a grand tale-teller, Boer began by telling missionary stories around the campfire at a denominational church camp in the 1970s. She liked to whet young people’s appetites to learn more about heroes and heroines, and perfected “the art of the cliff hanger,” she said.
“It was very well received,” she said.
Boer’s spiritual life changed significantly in the early 1990s, she said, when she truly understood the Christian gospel message and “left the wilderness” of a “dysfunctional” denomination.
She ended up at a Bible-believing church in Bothell that “needed all the help it could get” with its large children’s ministry. The pastor asked her to take over as the vacation Bible school (VBS) storyteller. He created a “great big whale” in the parking lot and Boer told a version of the Biblical story of Jonah — from a worm’s perspective — to about two dozen children, all of them hanging out with her inside the “whale.”
Eventually, Boer began portraying Corrie ten Boom at VBS after studying videos of the real-life ten Boom and perfecting her accent and mannerisms. The pastor said, “ ‘Oh, man, you sound like my Dutch grandparents!’ ” and asked her to do a “cameo” appearance of ten Boom in front of the entire church.
After that, word of her talent spread rapidly.
A friend asked Boer to perform as ten Boom at two tea parties to raise money for a mission trip. The $20 tickets sold out, and $600 was quickly raised for the trip.
Another woman asked, “Do you do any more stories?” That led Boer to dive into more research — and eventually to perform as British maid-turned-missionary Gladys Aylward. The next character she took on was Darlene Deibler Rose, a missionary who spent four years in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.
Holding a degree in French from the University of Washington, Boer said her main reason for performing in the early years was to raise money for mission trips to Marseille, France, to show “The Jesus Film.” Now, she’s content to sit back and see where God leads her.
“…but I love telling the stories,” she said.
Boer charges for her performances on a sliding scale. For a church audience, the fee is $250, with a non-refundable deposit of $75. A retreat, where she performs three or four characters, costs about $500. For smaller groups, the fee is $100 to $150, depending on size.
Regarding her work, Boer likes to quote the American pastor and theologian A.W. Tozer, who said, “Next to the Holy Scriptures, the greatest aid to the life of faith may be Christian biography.”
For more information about Boer’s work, go to www.faithheroinesalive.com
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