"The Diary of Anne Frank” is a heartbreaking true story many of us first read in middle school. And while the story dates back to World War II, Nick Corley, artistic director at Savannah Repertory Theatre, says he believes this tale is just as timely now as it ever has been.
Savannah Repertory Theatre will present “The Diary of Anne Frank” for two weekends, Sept. 27-30 and Oct. 4-7, at their theater at 980 Industry Drive.
Corley says they will perform the updated adaption of the play by Wendy Kesselman. He adds that this play has seen a resurgence lately “partly due to what’s going on in the world right now with the rise of extreme nationalism.”
“This play is as timely now as when these events were happening,” Corley says. “... It’s a good reminder of what did happen and the beauty of human life everywhere, no matter who you are. There is a beauty and dignity to human life and [Anne Frank] captures that in her diary.”
For those not familiar with the story, this dramatic play is based on the real-life diary of Frank, a 13-year old Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis with her family and another Jewish family in a concealed storage attic during the Holocaust. This performance will focus on the claustrophobic realities of their daily lives during those dark two years.
Corley also says the uniqueness of their theater adds to that feeling of living in a cramped space and will make the audience feel as though they are in the room with those eight people in the attic.
“We are in an old bread making factory ... so we can turn the theater into any kind of configuration we want depending on the play... We want people to feel like they are in the annex with the Frank family... We want people to feel like they are in there with them. The audience is on all four sides, so you really feel like you are a part of the event.”
There will also be radio recordings played so the audience can hear what’s going on in the world at that time to help put their mindset firmly on the time period. Corley also says the mixture of writing from the 1950s to more modern styles makes a difference.
“It’s an older play, but a few years ago it was given a rewrite by Wendy Kesselman ... and it makes this play really powerful.”
Corley says the mission of Savannah Repertory Theatre is to showcase professional union actors alongside local artists from our community. And he adds the actors they bring in have years of experience “and everyone cast in this play is super talented.”
“It's a powerful story and it’s so timely, and I want to make sure we do our best job to honor the truth and the lives that are represented in the diary.”
One of the professional actors brought in to Savannah is Molly Franco, who plays the lead role of Anne Frank. She says this is her third time to play the role and she’s drawn to the character by “Anne’s uplifting spirit.”
“A lot of people think this is going to be a sad play,” she says. “But Anne was so joyful in spite of what she was going through ... and she really saw the joy in life and the good in people ... And throughout the play you see that.
“This 13-year-old girl is having an adventure throughout the ordeal ... and that’s why I’m so inspired by her. ... She was a lot lighter than people may realize.”
Franco adds that another unique aspect of the performance is that the actors never leave the stage.
“So, the whole time we are kind of living about ... I feel like the audience gets to watch what life was like in there ... as opposed to what you experience at huge theaters.”
In the end, she hopes audiences will take time to reflect on the emotions the play may bring about — from happiness and humor, to the sadness at the end.
“I think there is a sense of sadness because of what happened to these people and the millions of other people during the Holocaust. It is sad, but what this play is so great at doing is making it so that it’s not sad until the end, because you are seeing how they lived for two years ... You may see some funny scenes, and also walk away with a sense of gratitude and thankfulness.”
And both Franco and Corley agree in hoping the performance will serve as a reminder that we can never allow that chapter of history to repeat itself.
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Repertory Theatre presents “The Diary of Anne Frank”
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 27-29 and Oct. 4-6; 3 p.m. Sept. 30 and Oct. 7
Where: Savannah Repertory Theatre, 980 Industry Drive