The Diary of Anne Frank
'Diary of Anne Frank': Otterbein production renews play's strong emotions
Anne Frank’s story is by now so familiar that the challenge for any production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” is to make fresh a story that over time may have lost its power to raise strong emotions.
Otterbein Theatre’s new production succeeds in breaking through the expected with an extraordinary title performance by Tatum Beck and a script by Wendy Kesselman that revises the original play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, highlighting material from Frank’s unabridged diary.
Beck’s performance of the adolescent heroine washes away any taint of saintliness, leaving the audience to react — with the full knowledge that she won’t make it to adulthood — to a lively, observant, passionate and sometimes annoying teenager.
Kesselman’s script veers away from imposing any artificial dramatic structure on the original diary, instead allowing small quarrels and celebrations among the eight people crammed into the annex where they depend for their lives on Miep Gies (a sunny Kat Lee) to speak for themselves.
Scenes of daily life alternate with passages from Anne’s diary — many of which won’t be familiar to viewers of the earlier play and film — and with projected images and amplified voices of Hitler and the Allies and pictures of Jews being sent to concentration camps.
Director Mark Mineart keeps the spotlight, figuratively and sometimes literally, on Anne, to the extent that the other characters sometimes seem drab in comparison, though Maxwell Bartel as Anne’s sympathetic father, Isabel Billinghurst as flirtatious Mrs. van Daan, and Daniel Kunkel as socially awkward Mr. Dussell make their presence felt.
Rather than keeping the emphasis on individual characters, other than the irrepressibly Anne, Mineart plays up the tensions among a group of people forced to live in claustrophobically tight quarters under a state of constant fear, where the slightest action by one provokes outsized reactions in all the others.
Stephanie Gerckens’ deliberately crowded set emphasizes the lack of privacy the characters endure, and T.J. Gerckens’ lighting, sepia and low except for Anne’s dramatic soliloquies, adds to the sense of confinement.
The production plays the audience’s knowledge of the fate of the people in the Annex against their uncertainty without becoming uncomfortably ironic. It heightens its more realistic scenes by subtly showing them from Anne’s dramatic point of view, and contrasts the small problems and pleasures of waking life with the horrifyingly prophetic power of Anne’s nightmares.
Even those who think they’ve heard this story before will find something new here.
February 10, 2018:
Two Westerville police officers, Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering were shot and killed while responding to a 911 hang-up call. The entire company of The Diary of Anne Frank extends its sympathies to the family, friends, and community of these servants of the public good.
Director’s Notes: A Few Facts:
According to FBI data, after years of decline, 2016 saw a spike in the number of hate crimes in the USA for the first time since 1996. The Southern Poverty Law Center currently tracks more than 1600 extremist groups. Thirty-three of the hate-groups tracked by the SPLC are located in the state of Ohio, the majority in and around the city of Columbus.
Extremist groups are not the only source of hate and discrimination, however. In 2017 more than 100 Anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 29 states. Inconceivably, some of these bills were passed into law.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) also notes that within two weeks after Election Day 2016, more than 700 incidents of hate crime were reported nationwide. In many cases the perpetrators alluded to the Republican President-elect Donald Trump, however, the SPLC noted 27 incidents directed at Trump supporters. A few examples:
November 9, 2016:
Capital University student Brittany Daughenbaugh was walking near campus playing Pokemon when she was followed, attacked and assaulted by two young white men, who told her, “Don’t you worry, honey, President Trump says this is OK.”
November 11, 2016:
High school teacher Mairah Teli, a Muslim who wears a headscarf as a practice of her faith received an anonymous note which read:
“Mrs. Teli, your head scarf isn’t allowed anymore. Why don’t you tie it around your neck and hang yourself with it on your neck instead of your head. America!”
November 9, 2016:
A 50-year-old motorist (David Wilcox) was involved in a fender bender in Chicago. When he tried to get insurance information from the other driver, he was beaten by multiple suspects and his car was stolen. In a cellphone video posted online, Wilcox is seen being pummeled by several individuals, while onlookers shouted, “You voted Trump!” The other driver then drove off, dragging Wilcox for several blocks.
Saturday, November. 12, 2016:
At a restaurant in Brooklyn, a man and woman who were Trump supporters began arguing with two female Clinton supporters seated nearby. Later, after the couple paid and left, the man ran back inside and punched one of the women in the face, before darting out.
Thursday, November 24, 2016:
A threatening letter, signed “Americans for a Better Way,” was delivered to the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose, Calif. It read:
“To the children of Satan, You Muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs. You are evil. You worship the devil. But your day of reckoning has arrived: There’s a new sheriff in town -- President Donald Trump. He’s going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews. You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge. This is a great time for patriotic Americans. Love live President Trump and God bless the USA.”
The oldest human remains on earth (between 2 and 6 million years) come entirely from Africa. Studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals currently indicate that human beings are 92% - 99.9% genetically identical. This means that no matter who we are, where we are from, what we believe, how we love, or whether we like it or not, we all share the same common ancestors. Quite literally, all people are our people.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” - Anne Frank
Let us never wait.
Support human equality:
The Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam
Read Anne Frank’s Diary:
Southern Poverty Law Center: https://metoomvmt.org
Equality Ohio http://www.equalityohio.org
Thank you for coming to the Theatre.
- Mark Mineart