Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Diary of Anne Frank, by Wendy Kesselman

Tonight I saw our local Cardinal Stage Company production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington IN. The acting, set design, and adaptation were wonderful, and playwright Wendy Kesselman was in attendance. There was a talk-back after the show with the cast, playwright, Alvin Rosenfeld from the IU Department of Jewish Studies, and Randy White, brilliant CSC artistic director.

Two years ago my family traveled to Amsterdam, where we visited the Anne Frank Haus. It is a very moving experience to walk through the small rooms where these people lived for so long, on top of one another, unable to go outdoors, in fear for their lives, dependent on the unfailing help of Meip Gies. This version of the play best captures the experience of living in hiding, bringing the voice of Anne's diary to the stage without diminishing the horror of the holocaust.

I am thrilled that we have theater in Bloomington of this caliber, put together with such attention to detail, providing a context for discussion of the Holocaust, of writing, and of the issues raised by this show. The play speaks to the difficulty of maintaining intimacy and autonomy under the stress of dehumanization.

I've always found photos of Anne and her family to be very moving, in part because they remind me of photos of my mother and her sister Marlene when they were children – at the same moment in history, growing up in small towns in North Dakota.

In the photo here, of Anne and her sister Margot at a party when they were young, the blurry faces of two of the children speak to the smudging out of the past, and of childhood happiness. At the same time, it is a beautiful photo. If you click on it (in the small version on the left), you will find information about the Cardinal Stage Company and this wonderful production.

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