AUBURN – “The Diary of Anne Frank” tells a story from World War II, but it holds important messages for today, agree its Community Little Theatre director, its cast and area educators.
That’s why about 800 Lewiston-Auburn eighth-grade students will get a chance to see this play in extra morning performances. Those shows are in addition to the regular evening and matinee schedule for the play, which opens June 2 and runs through June 11.
“I think we are setting a precedent” by offering several shows to the L-A school systems, and a few other schools that have been able to take advantage of the additional shows, said director Lee Griswold.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is “certainly forever topical,” he said, particularly in light of today’s world of wars, dictators, oppression and, most significantly, human genocide.
However, Griswold emphasized that “The Diary of Anne Frank” is not just about the holocaust. It’s the well-known story of 13-year-old Anne Frank living in hiding with her family and four others in the secret annex of an Amsterdam warehouse during the Nazi occupation of Holland.
It’s also about a young girl’s coming of age. The focus is on the sustained hope Anne holds throughout her captivity and her persistent belief that people are good, despite the evil that exists in the world.
The play is, at once, warm and humorous, yet cutting and terrifying.
On one level, what is important about the piece is not the eventuality of Anne’s capture along with her fellow inhabitants, but the extraordinary ways in which each person finds the strength and courage to deal with dire circumstances.
On another level, the play reminds us that the lesson taught us by the Holocaust should never be forgotten.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is just that – a true story from Anne’s actual diary. Her father published the book of her writings in 1947. It was made into an acclaimed movie in 1959, with Millie Perkins in the title role. It’s reported that Audrey Hepburn was first offered the role of Anne Frank.
She refused it for two reasons: she had decided to accept a role in another film, and, more importantly, she had lived in occupied Holland during the war and had seen the Nazis carry out street executions and watched as they herded Jews onto boxcars to carry them to concentration camps. She knew that making the film would bring back memories that were far too painful for her.
Griswold said this CLT production is by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, as adapted by Wendy Kesselman in 1998. He said this new adaptation contains material that Otto Frank, Anne’s father, released only in recent years before his death.
The cast and crew of “The Diary of Anne Frank” have made extraordinary commitments to assure accurate and honest portrayals in this production, according to Griswold. He said they did extensive research of the time period and the characters.
“They have been willing to spend all this time beyond rehearsals, and many of them are arranging time off from work in order to do the extra shows at 9 a.m. on several days for the students,” Griswold said. Study of the holocaust is part of the curriculum in Maine schools.
The part of Anne is played by Kaitlin Rokowski and her father is played by James R. Sargent. Joshua M. Harris portrays Anne’ special friend, Peter van Dann. Anne’s mother, Edith Frank, is played by Cheryl Reynolds, and Peter’s parents are played by Bruce Gerry and Linda Griswold.
Other cast members are Jennifer Dubois as Anne’s sister, Margot; Mark Hazard as Mr. Dussel; Donald Libby as Mr. Kraler; CarlaRose Ricciuti as Miep Gies; Brien Hodges as the Gestapo officer; and Calvin Shaw and Mike Griswold as the Green Police.
“This is truly an ensemble piece,” Griswold said. “Most of the cast is on stage all the way through.”
The production crew includes Amey Feeley, assistant director; Doreen Traynor and Marissa Jalbert, producers; Celeste Philippon, stage manager; Victoria Machado, assistant stage manager; Kate Sicotte, properties; Dick Rosenberg, set design; Tim Traynor, set construction; Martha Boardman and Lorraine Fontaine, set decor; Richard Martin, light design; Chad Gagnon, light board operator; Penny Appleby, costumes; Rachel Morin, publicity; Melody Driscoll, prompter; Bruce Gerry and cast, make-up; and Rabbi Hillal Katzir, Temple Shalom, Auburn, religious adviser.