Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Opening This Week: ANNE FRANK at Community Players

The real Anne Frank lived a short life, a much too short life, first in Frankfurt, Germany, where she was born in 1929, and then in Amsterdam, where her father took his family in 1933 to flee from the rising Nazi party in Germany and its virulent anti-Semitism. But Hitler and his stormtroopers invaded Amsterdam, too, forcing Anne's family to hide in a "secret annex" from July 1942 to August 1944, when they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank died  at the age of 15, along with her sister Margot, at the camp called Bergen-Belsen.

During her time in the "annex," Anne had kept journals of her thoughts and hopes, journals preserved by a family friend who'd brought food and supplies to the Franks in their hiding place. Anne's father, the only member of the family who survived the Holocaust, took Anne's diary and published it under the title The Secret Annex: Diary Letters from June 14, 1942 to August 1, 1944. In English, it's come to be known as The Diary of a Young Girl.

The book clearly touched something in readers worldwide. As Biography characterizes it: "Countless editions, as well as screen and stage adaptations, of the work have been created around the world. The Diary of a Young Girl remains one of the most moving and widely read firsthand accounts of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust."

It's the stage adaptation many of us know best. First on stage in New York in 1955, The Diary of Anne Frank, the adaptation written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the Tony Award for Best Play. Susan Strasberg, the 17-year-old actress who played Anne, was nominated for the Tony for Best Actress, as the show earned nominations for scenic designer Boris Aronson, costume designer Helene Pons and director Garson Kanin, as well.

Millie Perkins played the role in the 1959 film version directed by George Stevens, with Joseph Schildkraut, Gusti Huber and Lou Jacobi reprising their roles from the Broadway show.

The Diary of Anne Frank has kept Anne alive for generations of theatergoers, with an updated version of the script, written by Wendy Kesselman, used for the 1997 Broadway production starring Natalie Portman. Community Players and director Opal Virtue are also using the Kesselman script in their production opening with a Pay-What-You-Can preview on January 16th, and regular performances from the 17th to the 26th.

Virtue's cast includes Veronika Bettis as Anne, with Paul Vellella and Penny Wilson as her parents, Otto and Edith Frank, and Rebekah Easling as her sister Margot. The others who shared their small hiding space include the Van Daan family, played here by Tricia Stiller, Alan Wilson and Tim Zaitzeff, Mr. Kraler, played by Tom Smith, and Mr. Dussel, played by Nathan Bottorff. Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who served as their connection to the outside world, will be portrayed by Amanda Fisher. Jake Rathman and Tyler Stark complete the ensemble.

Click here for more information on Community Players' production and how to get tickets. You may also call 309-663-2121 or visit www.CommunityPlayers.org

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