Play Preview: The Diary of Anne Frank

by Shelby Ahlborg

After the success of last year’s performances, the theatre program is back in full swing with an exciting lineup of shows. Starting off the year is “The Diary of Anne Frank,” a play based on the true story of a young Jewish girl and her family and friends as they struggled to stay out of the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Hidden away in an attic for two years, Anne spent much of her time writing a diary of her thoughts and dreams, as well as recounting the everyday events that the people living there went through. This play is based on that diary, published by her father after she and almost everyone else were killed.

Most people today don’t understand what it was like to live in such a terrible time in history. The difficult part about performing this play, then, is finding a way to accurately portray those intense emotions. Every character in the play is based on a real person, so the actors must develop their characters in order to become these actual historical people. In order to assist with that, director Dr. Diane Merchant and stage manager Samantha Partridge took several steps to be sure the actors understood how to behave.

“I bought each of them copies of the original diary that she wrote,” Merchant said. “I bought them the definitive edition, which restores some of the things that Otto Frank, her father, had originally taken out. … That was very helpful, because in that version there were actually photographs of many of the real people, so from the very beginning, they seemed like real people who didn’t live that long ago.”

While learning their characters took a lot of effort, it wasn’t as difficult for the actors to understand the mood of the culture and events that were happening during that time period.

“The play kind of speaks for itself a lot,” Partridge said. “It has a lot of information about the Holocaust embedded in the story, so it’s pretty serious. I think the mood of the play is pretty clear just reading it, but we also as a cast watched ‘The Pianist’ to understand what was going on in other places in Europe at the time.”

Since the families weren’t able to leave the attic, in the play, except for a handful of characters, all of the actors are on stage almost the whole time, even if they’re not in a scene. As a result, the actors busied themselves with “background” acting, doing things like chores, preparing meals, taking the stars off of their clothes, and even some quiet recreational activities like playing cards and reading. Although not an important part of the play, it adds to the everyday life feel, and gives the audience the feeling of really looking in on the family as they live in an attic for two years.

“The Diary of Anne Frank” is about a real, tragic event, so those attending the play should not expect to come purely for entertainment. Though there are some funny moments, overall, the play takes on a darker and far more serious tone than previous plays the department has performed.

Merchant hopes that, through the play, audiences will come to a realization and appreciation for the beauty of Anne’s writing and mind. While her diary is a helpful way to learn about the Holocaust, it also makes one think about all of the other brilliant people who didn’t write diaries and are lost to the world. Though many people were lost, this play gives the audience a view into the lives of just a few of them, giving them a way to live on forever.

Opening night for “The Diary of Anne Frank” is 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, and will run through Oct. 15. Tickets can be purchased at the Information Center in Stevens Student Center or online at


Shelby Ahlborg is a junior graphic design major and arts and entertainment writer for Cedars. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, writing, and studying the animation and special effects in movies.

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