“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met.” Anne Frank
This is the story of a young girl, Anne, who went into hiding with seven others when the Nazi’s overtook Amsterdam in the 1940’s. The Jewish people were being deported to concentration camps, forced to work, starved, and many were gassed or brutally killed . However, Anne’s family was blessed with a place to hide. On July 6, 1942 the Frank’s went into hiding at their father (Otto’s) work building. There was a door behind a bookcase that lead to the “secret annexe”. The quarters were cramped and held eight people: the Frank family, the Van Daan family, and Mr. Dussel, a local dentist. After two years, just as troops landed at Normandy, the group was betrayed and transported to a concentration camp. Of the eight only one survived, Otto Frank.
I first heard of Anne Frank when I was in junior high school. We were required to read “The Diary of a Young Girl”. It was a moving story because she was our age and was forced into hiding. Living in San Diego, California, being surrounded by the beach, palm trees, warm weather, and the comfort of a home it was hard for us kids to understand. In college I visited Amsterdam for the first time and toured the hiding place where eight brave souls fled in order to escape the Nazis. It is a memory I will always hold in my mind. I cannot fathom not being able to leave, not going outside, not being able to see others, eating minimal poor food, and having to be quiet all day in constant fear of discovery.
Ali Daniels, who plays the role of Anne Frank, was superb. She looked and acted the part very well. Although she is a college grad, there was a moment when she was sitting on her father’s lap that I truly believed she was just 13 years old. Her playful demeanour, bright smile, and pesky personality (of a young kid) made her truly take the form of Anne. Janet Hanson (Mrs. Van Daan) is a great character actress. Her laugh and happy humour was a nice addition to the cast. Nathan Surprenant who plays Otto Frank was level headed and kept everyone together. When there were arguments and quarrels, he stepped in to calm everyone down. During the last scene he told of the concentration camp and what happened to the other seven people. He stood in the darkness with a spotlight on him and the audience was silent except for sniffles. It was a very touching moment and when he finished there was a long pause before anyone clapped. Sometimes when you are moved by a scene you get caught in a frozen state. This is what happened to the audience. With such a powerful piece, they were unsure if applauding was the correct expression.
Yellow Tree Theatre is a quaint venue in Osseo, MN. The lobby is beautifully decorated and the theater itself is an intimate setting. The set designed by Rick Polenek was incredible. On the back wall were images of rooms, each lit up when a scene was taking place in them. This helped decipher where the characters were and what they were doing. Lighting and sound must be intertwined well in order to allow the audience to follow. In this show they were spot on. Andy Mayer who was the sound designer did an incredible job at transitioning scenes. There would be a crash of thunder and rain to signify movement. The lights would dim while the actors moved the props around: tables, chairs, and benches. Once they were done the lights would change and you were transported to another page of the story.
The costumes which were put together by Carolann Winther were true to their time period. The girls had long skirts, blouses, and dresses. Their shoes were worn and their hair was done in the style of the 40’s. The men wore dark slacks, vests, and sweaters. Mrs. Van Daan had a beautiful, long, fur coat that was given to her by her father. She treasured it explaining that it was her last possession.
The story of Anne Frank is a moving piece. The actors did a wonderful job telling the story. Through Anne’s diary we learn that although there is bad in the world, we can continue to look at the good and move forward. For more information check out the Yellow Tree Theatre:
The Diary of Anne Frank
Sept 21-Oct 21