CROWLEY - The Notre Dame High School Speech & Drama Club gave a moving performance of “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Grand Opera House on Friday March 15. Two other performances were given, one on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
This drama is based on a diary written by a Jewish teenager in hiding in the Netherlands during World War II when the German Nazis were capturing Jews to send to concentration camps.
The play opens with the sole survivor of the family returning to their hiding place after his liberation. There Mr. Frank is met by Miep Gies, who had found the diary after the Germans had taken the family and their friends from the secret annex where they hid for two years. Gies, along with Mr. Kraler had provided the family with food and news of the outside world.
As Mr. Frank begins to read the diary, soon Anne’s voice joins his. The audience is transported back to July of 1942 to a secret annex where the Frank family, along with another family, is in hiding above his former place of business. On this first day, Mr. Frank has given Anne the diary book in which she recorded her thoughts and acts during this period of hiding. The play is presented through Anne’s reading parts of her diary as well as action on the stage.
The tremendous cast, headed by Bethany Leonards as Anne and Dominic Casanova as Mr. Frank, was able to convey the tensions, fears, and joys of living two years confined in such close quarters. The scenes between the two teenagers Anne and Peter (played by Andrew Piron) were heartwarming when one realizes that they were trying to live everyday normal lives in the midst of a situation that didn’t allow their relationship to develop in any “normal” way.
One scene that was especially moving to this reviewer was when the family celebrates the news of the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion. In their minds, this signifies that the Americans and British will soon be victorious over the Germans and they will be free. However, aware that only Mr. Frank would survive, this was almost a cruel irony to watch, realizing that they would be captured before liberation would come.
In August, 1944, the family hears the continuous ringing of a phone in the business below on a day that no one is there. Tension builds as the audience hears sirens in the background. The sirens stop and footsteps and yelling are heard as the German SS arrive. Tipped off by an anonymous informant, the family is arrested.
The final scene returns again to the day that Mr. Frank is with Miep (played by Ashley Wright) in the hiding place. After hearing the story that Anne wrote, she helps convince him not to destroy the diary but rather to share it with the world. It gives such a vivid picture not just of her personal story, but the story of so many more people who tried to escape the Holocaust.
Steve Fontenot, sponsor for the drama department, spoke to this reviewer of the importance of making people aware of the social injustices not only of the past but also of the present.
There is one line from Anne’s diary that should give each one of us hope for the future.
Despite her situation and the constant anxiety with which she lived, Anne wrote, “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.”
To see these young people embrace this performance with such fervor is encouraging for the future since they are unwilling to forget the past.