How did you become interested in Eric Liddell's story?
Leilani Wells of the Christian Performing Artists Fellowship, hosts of the MasterWorks Festival, is writing an article about my work. She asked a followup question which I thought I would post: "How did you become interested in Eric Liddell's story?"
Eric Liddell's story was actually the first one that I wanted to do as a one-man play. I was a runner as a young man and was profoundly inspired by Chariots of Fire on several levels: The running is obvious, though I was a distance man (1500m, 3k, 5k for cross-country, and in college the steeplechase). I was also inspired as a believer. I read one of the biographies on Liddell when I was in high school, and rereading them it was amazing to discover some of the principles upon which I've based my life washing over me afresh. My grandparents were missionaries to Kenya, so I grew up wanting to be a missionary. Finally, I ran a race in China when I was in high school. Okay, here's another: Liddell's leap aboard the ferry after it left the dock was one of the images that kept driving me back to the idea of doing a play about him. Now that scene has been edited out, except for a reference to it, but it sure will be grand on the big screen some day.
So why didn't I start with Liddell? I went for the sure thing: the story of John Woolman. He's not exactly a household name, but he is to Quakers and that's where all my contacts were when I first got started, and I'm still performing A Clear Leading from time to time. Several other projects were assigned to me or pressed their way to the front of the line (ie Five Bells for 9/11 and a Christmas play, Views of the Manger).
So in 2000, Joyce and I were on our 4th Honeymoon in Edinburgh. They aren't always as exotic as Edinburgh, but that year we were able to tack it onto a business trip that she took and a 16 city tour of England that I had just finished. There we visited the Eric Liddell Centre, but it was closed. It is on what is known as Holy Corner. There is a church on every corner, and the Eric Liddell Centre is built in one of them. We decided to attend one of the existing three churches the next morning and "just happened" to attend the one where Eric Liddell taught Sunday school while he was attending the University of Edinburgh. There we met his niece, Dr. Peggy Judge. She spent much of the next day with us at the centre named after her uncle. We sorted through out of print books, pictures, memorabilia, etc.
Unfortunately I returned to a busy schedule and other pressing projects and didn't start work on the play (except for copious notes) until four years later. The next stage of the story is told on my blog, posted April 16, 2006.
The whole time line is posted May 9, 2006.