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Mr. and Mrs. Frank (Chace Avery and Sarah Rhodes) explain to Anne (Madison Trowbridge), right, the importance of staying indoors during the occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany. Anne, who is young, wants to run downstairs because she forgot her pens. Photo by Leslie Radcliff

NHHS to illustrate 'Diary of Anne Frank' in new light

November 06, 2013
It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals; they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet, I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us, too. I feel the suffering of millions.

And, yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty, too, shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.

— Anne Frank, July 15, 1944

In 1940, the Netherlands, a country that attempted to remain neutral during World War II, was invaded by Nazi forces from Germany and its Jewish peoples rounded up like chattel and sent to concentration camps. It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of the nation's Jewish population was decimated during this time.

Imagine growing up in a time when the world as you know it was writhing in uncertainty, never knowing from whom you can trust or where you'll find yourself when the new day arrives.

North Harrison High School hopes to answer the questions people have about that time in history in its reproduction of "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Told through the diary of a 13-year-old girl, Anne's story is an eye-opening look at the hardships that many faced during World War II.

In 1943, in order to avoid arrest and deportation by the occupying Nazis forces, the Frank family went into hiding in a secret annex above the office of Anne's father, Otto Frank, in Amsterdam.

For the 25 months that the Franks lived in the annex with four others, Anne kept a diary until they were discovered and deported to various concentration camps, where all but Anne's father, Otto, perished during the waning days of the Nazi's reign of terror.

The North Harrison Theatre Group will perform the Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett version of the play that has been adapted for Broadway by Wendy Kesselman.

"The characters are all more vibrant," Stephanie Richardson, theatre director, said. "Ö They really come to life in this adaptation. It's not just about Anne, it's absolutely about all of the characters."

In the original adaptation by Goodrich and Hackett, the characters are substantially more subdued than they are in the new version, Richardson said. But, she also explained that it's to be expected on some level; until Kesselman's adaptation in 2006, the depiction of Anne Frank's time in seclusion hadn't been changed since 1955.

"It's kind of a fresher take on the original script," she said. "Same ideas and same story line but freshened up a bit."

Each of the young actors found it challenging to take on their new roles, as well.

Madison Trowbridge, a freshman, will be tackling the role of Anne, and found that the arc of her character's emotions was going to be an interesting and complete character all in itself.

"Anne, she changes a lot in the play because, keep in mind, she's a 13-year-old girl in the beginning and she turns around 15 by the end," Trowbridge said. "That's a big time of maturity especially for a teenage girl who writes about herself all of the time. She's always self reflecting on herself. So, she matures a lot."

Trowbridge also said that Anne's movements at the beginning of the production go from big movements that are "really jumpy and in your face" to a more subdued and less theatrical rage of emotion.

"The change between Act One and Act Two," she said. "Later on, she focuses on the dynamics of society and other people."

Chace Avery, a junior and a veteran with the North Harrison Theatre, also found his role of Otto Frank demanding.

"He's compassionate and caring and he's the one in control," he said. "He knows how to calm a situation down."

Avery found the compassionate nature of Otto to be somewhat challenging.

"You have to hug people and you have to come out of your shell and your bubble," he said. "For me, that was the hardest part Ö and the mustache itches."

From the cast to the crew, it has taken each of the group's members to create a memorable show.

"We have had to work just as hard as the cast, and we all really care about this production," Cheyenne Hill, a junior who works as the stage manager, said. "We couldn't do this without everyone."

From the props to the set design, the students have worked hard to create an extraordinary experience.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" will run Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and there will be no charge for children younger than 5. Due to the serious nature of this show's content and themes, viewer discretion is advised for children younger than 12.

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