The Diary of Anne Frank

The theatre department of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DESOTA) presented three performances of The Diary of Anne Frank on their main stage last weekend.
Thirteen year old Anne Frank went into hiding with her family in the Netherlands, during the WWII Nazi roundup of Jews. For two years she kept a diary, that was later found and published and has remained a powerful study of courage against insurmountable odds. Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett debuted the original play in l955 and won a Pulitzer Prize.
The father Otto Frank, managed to be the only survivor of the concentration camps, was given the diary and but unknown to most, did not release all of it for publication, and held back portions that Anne had written dealing with her relationship with her mother and her sexual awaking. Playwright Wendy Kesselman wrote an adapted version incorporating the new material and shortened the original three hour play. It debuted on Broadway in l997 and won a Tony.
The DASOTA production was directed by Bonnie Harrison, who certainly knows the material since she was in a production of The Diary of Anne Frank that I saw at Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre a few years ago. She played the role of Edith Frank.
The cast was students, playing very mature and difficult roles. They captured the mood and feeling and each showed a through understand of their roles.
Tiffany Gray in the leading role of Anne was very spirited and optimistic and gave a very insightful performance in to this character. Dexter McDaniel was excellent as Otto Frank, and even resembled the kind and patient father in physical appearance. (Photos of the original family were on display in the court yard.) Mr. Frank was the glue that held these eight hidden Jews together in those cramp quarters.
Maggie Stern played Edith, the mother, even had her hair fixed in the style of the real Mrs.
Frank. The always on the edge Mr. & Mrs. Van Daan were played by Ben Peltz and Alexis Riley and were convincing in their bickering. Cole Marshall was believable as the low-key and shy son of the Van Daans, Peter. Ana Hill was the quiet and demure Anne’s older sister Margot. Steve Carter was the nit-picking dentist Mr. Dussel. Jennah Downs as Miep Giles and Jack Permenter as Mr. Kraler, play the two non-Jews who could move around city freely and brought food and supplies to the hiding place.
Scenic Designer Nolan O’Dell and his crew created a very realistic attic divided up into nooks and crannies for each of the families to sleep and live. Technical Director Terry Monday, added sound effects of vehicles and air raids to add to the realism.
The costumes by Lexa Kirstner and the cast looked authentic, although apparently no one brought a change of clothing since they wore the same thing the entire two years.
Director Harrison made one change in the script by not having storm troopers burst into the attic and take out the occupants. Instead, a red light bathes the stair hall way, indicating the presence of the Nazis.
At the end, Otto Frank delivers a monologue giving details of what happened to each of the group, and as he mentioned when and how they died, the character left the stage putting their shoes on the table that was in center. The final pair was Anne’s special red shoes on the very top of the pile, lighted by a spot light.
I have seen this play many times and it is a play that will continue to be performed many more times, as each generation needs to be aware of this dark period of civilization’s history so that it may never happen again.
Thanks Douglas Anderson School of the Arts for another exceptional evening of theater.