Photo: Petre (John McIver) choking Elsie (Heather Pattengale) with the police baton in ‘We Are The Body,’ a drama that explores the lives of prisoners in Communist Europe in the 1950s. (Supplied photo)





Richard Wurmbrand who died in 2001 at age 91 is a modern-day martyr.

A pastor, he was imprisoned in Soviet Romania in 1948 for 10 years and tortured daily but refused to deny his Christian faith or supply names of other practising Christians in Romania.

In his new play We Are the Body, Alberta playwright Andrew Kooman pays homage to Wurmbrand’s story through three fictional characters who undergo the same kind of torture and humiliation in their captors’ attempts to break these prisoners’ faith.

“To keep himself sane, Wurmbrand created sermons in his head, memorized them and then tapped them out in code for other prisoners to hear.

“The tapping is what inspires prisoners Elsie (Heather Pattengale), Richard (Tim Bratton) and Micah (John McIver) to reflect on past events both happy and traumatic.

“We follow Elsie’s stories about life before the war and before imprisonment as she considers a life without torture but also without faith.”

Kooman points out that “Wurmbrand was a man who never lost his sense of humour. He could laugh and find humor even in moments of great despair so there is humour throughout the play.”

We Are the Body is Kooman’s follow up to his highly successful play She Has a Name about human trafficking which toured Canada and had two sold-out runs in Calgary.

“There is still quite a bit of life in She Has a Name.

“It recently had a tour in California and a reading in New York.

“I’ve just written a Latin American version which will tour Mexico and am working with production companies from the UK and Canada on a film version.”

Kooman whose father’s family were in Holland during the Second World War has written a play set during the Nazi occupation of Holland called Delft Blue, police noir thriller which he hopes to have produced when We Are the Body has run its course.

We Are the Body runs in the Pumphouse’s Joyce Doolittle Theatre May 13 to 23 with performances at 7:30 p.m. nightly and 2 p.m. matinees on the weekends.

Tickets are $25 in advance at or $30 at the door.