Return to the Hiding Place – Interview with Rachel

Many of you know I’m a big WWII buff, so when I heard about Return to the Hiding Place, an “add-on” to the original story of The Hiding Place and Corrie ten Boom. Instead of Corrie’s story, this one focuses more on her teenage resistance army and the Dutch Resistance during the war. Filled with drama, action, romance, and faith, Return to the Hiding Place inspires Christians to speak up and do what’s right – no matter the cost.
I got to interview the director Peter Spencer, and now I have a chance to interview one of the stars, Rachel Hewitt! Rachel hails from San Antonio and began acting at a young age.
1. What inspired you to pursue acting?
I was constantly involved in church dramas and community theater as a child and receieved a scholarship at Trinity University in San Antonio for theater. At the time it was my minor, but I spent every available moment into the early hours of morning at the theater: rehearsing, creating, crafting, learning. I was a communications and art major, and during one of my marketing classes sophomore year, I had my script on my lap, memorizing lines for that week’s rehearsal. I had the epiphany that the passion of my heart was evident by the hours I poured into the work. I called my parents to give them the heads up that I was switching my major to Drama, and they were thrilled. (My dad was my first actor-hero, teacher, and mentor). I haven’t turned back since.
returntothehidingplace2
 
2. What are some of the roles you’ve played in the past? Which are your favorites?
My favorite past roles would have to be Homebody in Homebody/Kabul, Masha in Three Sisters at YSD, Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing and Beatrice in Servant of Two Masters at the Shakespeare Theater in DC, and Raz in A Civil War Christmas at NYTW. I also did quite a few new plays and some of the playwrights that created such specific and powerful worlds and characters were Dipika Guha and Meg Miroshnik – I had so much fun playing with characters in their works, especially Passing and The Droll, respectively. I had also done a one-woman show that I devised and a musical based on Three Sisters, and bother were two of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had. I’m currently working on Joan la Pucelle (Shakespeare’s Joan of Arc) and can’t stop reading and researching and exploring her life through imagination, outside and in. She’s become a really constant presence on my mind and reading her story has gripped my heart. but I’m doing a terrible job pairing down this list so I’ll just stop there!
3. Do you consider yourself similar to the characters you play or nothing like them?
I have felt a range of similarities and differences with my characters! Some very similar, some incredibly different, and many in-between! I love both experiences: finding a soul-mate character to give text to familiar experiences and enrich them with imagination and circumstances AND as finding a character totally unlike me on the surface and discovering what empathy gives me access to the working of their heart, mind, and soul. The latter has a lasting affect in that each expansion broadens my understanding of the human experience – both in its variables and commonalities.  Finding common ground or relatable circumstances personalizes that character’s need. Whether similar or different to me, I consider myself an advocate on behalf of my character, and to manifest them as fully, honestly human, I can only do that when I lend validity to their nature, choices, and needs. In doing that, I’ve found my capacity for compassion and understanding in life increases because my job is increasing the capacity of empathy and knowing other’s circumstances as my own. It’s been a huge teacher in relational interaction outside of the work, and it’s one of the main things I love about this profession.
4. What are your favorite parts about acting?
I guess I started to speak on it in the last question. The tools of compassion, understanding, and empathy are some of the best tools of the trade. I believe in storytelling as a means of sharing these tools with the viewer and asking him or her to employ them as well. If a group of actors and a director can provide truly human examples of varied experiences, they can open the hearts and minds of the audience. As someone of faith, I believe very much in the redemption element of storytelling – the value of the individual and the rise and fall of human endeavor to know, to love, to search, etc. Knowing that human beings were created with this ability to connect makes acting very valuable in terms of having the opportunity to transport an audience into a realm of story where humanity, tragedy, and redemption live and breathe in multiple dimensions – and in living form. Transportation via storytelling communicates truth to our very soul in a way head knowledge can never fully achieve.
5. What led you to do Return to the Hiding Place? What’s your favorite part about playing Aty?
My father has been working on this project for most of my life. He wrote the screenplay and directed with every drop of blood and sweat in him. His passion and commitment to vision created the opportunity to audition. At the end of my time in grad school, the film began casting. I sent in a tape to the hired casting directors so that I could present myself professionally and only receive a part that I earned. I felt so blessed to receive the call that they had vetted my tapes with the others and that I booked the part. Aty is not mentioned above because I can talk about her hear, but she is one of the most multi-dimensional, compassionate, intelligent female characters that I’ve read. The script keeps her true to life – there is nothing weak in her vulnerability and her strength has real agency to the plot and relationships. It’s a female actor’s dream. About the character, Aty’s conviction impacted me the most. She had such a clear idea of who she was and what she believed that when crisis hit she didn’t hide or have a moment of doubt, she bravely leaned into the storm and put her own life in danger for the lives of children who weren’t even her own. That sort of spiritual, emotional, and physical strength comes from a faith I aspire to. I wonder and search for the intimacy with God that happens before crisis hits that will make me the warrior I need to be if/when it hits. This search was catalyzed by Aty, and I love her for it.
6. What were the most challenging parts?
Technically, as my first feature, the exciting challenge was comprehending Aty’s dynamic arc chronologically while playing the scenes out of order. It was a fascination puzzle that took a lot prep work with the script beforehand to see how she grew, changed, was ultimately impacted, and then to mark specifically where each scene and event fell on that time-line, so when we shot the last scene before the third, etc, the evolution and development would hopefully be seamless in the finished product. Emotionally and spiritually, the biggest challenge was coming to terms with the fact that her life story is true. Tragedy in fictional characters hits as though it’s real, but tragedy from actual biogrophies can be infuriating, confusing, heartbreaking, and sobering. Being able to walk away from set for the day and shake off the fear and horror Aty daily experienced made me realize the privilege of my position. In art, we attempt to honor by telling the truth fully, but I still feel even that would be in vain if it didn’t also affect – when confronted with the reality of life and the living – our lives and thoughts in actuality. What do I take for granted? Who would I stand for? How am I using my strength and position to serve? For myself? What do I think of as “hardship”? How does it compare? How does that distract me from living generously? Bravely? With conviction?
--Screen grab -Rachel and orphan (1) quote
 
7. What are you favorite things to do outside of acting?
Play with my 5 month old daughter!!! She’s hilarious and smart and bright and patient and ferociously curious! I’m totally in love. My husband and I also bond over amazing pizza and Netflix. (It also counts as research for the acting, so I go with it!) I’m a travel junkie – I don’t care how far or how difficult or inconvenient, the entire trip is the adventure, not just the destination! I crave knowing people and cultures different from my own. I have fallen in love with the people of Russia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Mexico, Canada, Austria (goodness, the people and music!), and the best ice cream (I love ice cream – I am a self-proclaimed amateur connoisseur) was in Holland. The Netherlands, Haarlem in particular, had a stunning cathedral within walking distance of Corrie’s home. When we filmed there, I was overcome with the experiences of the place – the way the sun set, the steeple towered, the streets felt underfoot. It was all fuel for the sobering event of seeing the actual hiding place. We are the only film – including the original – allowed to film there. Physically standing behind that wall really put to terms that people hid behind a wall to save their lives. I also LOVE the outdoors, hiking, camping, etc. I love reading and writing (recreationally) and singing at my church. I love art and design and learning new methods of executing those skills. Oh also! I love to dance. Absolutely LOVE – all styles – ballet, jazz, tap, ballroom, everything. I trained and to this day it is one of my favorite forms of expression and physical engagement.
8. Who are some of your role models?
My parents. Not only for their faith, passion, and devotion to God and artistic excellence as cohesive concepts, but also for raising me on narratives of the brave, strong women, especially. I didn’t know many celebrities or pop stars, but I did know the names Amy Carmichael, Corrie ten Boom, George Mueller, Aty van Woerton, and many more like them. I struggle to find contemporary role models, perhaps for a lack of options, but more so I think because a life observed is more poignant after its completion – at least for me. In other words, we could be living in the age of extraordinary revolutionaries, they just happen to be creating the history and lives to model right now. We simply may not recognize them, however, until they finish. A quote that’s attributed to Corrie but may have originated from former senate chaplain Peter Marshall, or vice versa, sums up the thought: “the measure of life is not its duration but its donation.”
9. Where do you see yourself in the future?
Running a film company and part of a theater company. Always, always making things, always acting, always believing. I have had the first two in my heart for ages, and I now work for our film company and in November was asked to join a theater company (where I’m working on Joan d’Arc), and I couldn’t be more grateful. I love directing and started to really wet my feet in grad school. I see myself directing again, film and theater. There are too many stories in me to tell. Sometimes as the voice, sometimes as the guide, but either way, a joy. Life is full – and crazy and messy and also beautiful. So I’d add to this vision four kids (three in addition to this awesome starter), still loving pizza with my husband. Only thing different is possibly moving to a warmer climate.
10. Where can we find out more about you?
I have a twitter (@RachelSHewitt) and actor page on Facebook and upcoming blog: AuditioningMom.com (posts coming Feb 14).
You can purchase Return to the Hiding Place on their website, and read my full review of the film. You can also follow the group on Facebook and Twitter. A must-see for all Christians that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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Samantha is an entrepreneur and a former homeschool student from Indiana, USA. When not blogging, Samantha can be found reading about WWII, trying to speak Hebrew, and wasting time on Pinterest. Her work can be found on Free Homeschool Deals, Unigo, True Aim Education, Encouraging Moms at Home, and more.

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