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AHS Drama presents ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ | SLIDESHOW
ARLINGTON — While the Arlington High School Drama Department is no stranger to the demands of rapid-fire comedy, intricately plotted murder mysteries and elaborately staged musicals, this fall’s production will see them tackling an even weightier challenge, as they present a new version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8, 9, 15 and 16 at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center.
While the cast members range from relative ingenues, such as sophomores Jack Rogers and Emily Hawks as Peter and Petronella Van Daan, to experienced seniors, such as Coleman Holt and Grayson Baden as Otto and Edith Frank, all agreed with senior Grace McWatters, who plays Anne Frank, that the material demanded a more considerable commitment than even their standard levels of professionalism and attention to detail.
“The hardest thing has been to play Anne as a person, and not just as a character,” said McWatters, who’s been involved in every AHS Drama production since her freshman year, except for “White Christmas.” “We know we can’t goof around or mess this up, because we’re not playing stock characters, but real people who went through real struggles. I’m giving this my all.”
“There’s obviously a lot of meaning to it,” said Holt, who plays Anne’s father and delivers a monologue after Otto learns that his wife and daughters have died in the concentration camps. “That’s a really emotional scene, and because I’ve never lost anyone close to me, it was the part that was hardest for me to connect to.”
“I would go to my room and imagine having to hide from people who were breaking into my house and wanting to murder me,” said Baden, who echoed McWatters in appreciating that the new version of the play offers fuller portrayals of the rest of the Frank and Van Daan families, beyond Anne herself. “You feel a sense of fear and hopelessness that’s very disturbing.”
Just as Holt and Baden see this play as an opportunity to reconnect people in the modern-day with the events of the Holocaust more than 80 years ago, so do Hawks, Rogers and McWatters believe that their audiences will be able to glean messages of hope from its story.
“I suspect there might be some trepidation about attending a play that many people would naturally regard as very depressing,” said Hawks, who acknowledged that Petronella’s more lighthearted personality strikes a slightly different tone from the rest of the cast. “But I think they’ll be surprised by the message of perseverance that they encounter as well.”
“This story highlights the struggles of the Jews,” Rogers said. “Their time in the concentration camps is addressed at the end, but you see the frustrations that build up when eight or nine people are crammed together in such a small space, hiding for so long.”
“It’s a realistic account of a 13-year-old girl and the other people whom she occasionally butted heads with as she grew up in those circumstances,” McWatters said. “It’s about how they lived, not just how they died.”
The Northwest Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Ethnocide Education of Western Washington University has served as a resource for the production by providing a lobby display and speakers to the cast, through which they hope to help fulfill their mission of encouraging every public high school to include the Holocaust in its curriculum. Their exhibits will be available for audiences to view while waiting for the play to start, as well as during intermission.
Ticket prices are $7 for students and $10 for adults. Tickets may be purchased online at www.byrnesperformingarts.org, as well as at the door on show nights beginning at 6 p.m.