Sat 10/21-Sun 11/19
More than 70 years after she died in a Nazi concentration camp, Anne Frank is still making news.
Earlier this month a former FBI investigator announced he was going to use artificial intelligence to try determine who tipped off authorities about the Jewish teenager and others hiding behind a movable bookcase.
“Anne Frank has come to be the face of the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust,” said Cleveland Play House artistic director Laura Kepley, who is directing The Diary of Anne Frank. “I think the horror of the Holocaust, we’re still trying to make sense of it.
“I feel like it’s something we’re continually needing to investigate and understand so we can prevent it happening now and in the future.”
The Diary of Anne Frank tells the story about 13-year-old Anne and seven other Jews evading Nazi deportation for more than two years by hiding in an annex.
While the Cleveland Play House twice before produced Frank’s story, the last time was in the early ’90s, the upcoming production features Wendy Kesselman’s adaptation of authors Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett 1955 Pulitzer Prize winning stage play.
What’s unique about Kesselman’s work is it included a handful of pages missing from the original publishing of Frank’s diary. The additional material changed the story’s tone.
“This focuses really on Anne Frank as an adolescent girl,” Kepley said. “There’s talk of her relationship with her mother, there’s a sense of her growing sexual awakening, her going through puberty. She talks about the changes that are going on in her body and in perception of the world.
“The other thing that this adaptation does is it brings more of the Jewish culture and religion into the play. Kesselman felt like the original production toned down some of the more Jewish aspects of the story. This adaptation lets Anne be real. We get to see all of her dimensions.”
Revisiting The Diary of Anne Frank has been on Kepley’s radar for a while. However, she noted last year’s increase in hate crimes and anti-Semitism across the nation made the decision relatively easy for the upcoming season.
“We felt like this is a story that shows the best and worst of humanity,” Kepley said. “It felt like this play could remind us of our shared humanity, could remind us of our responsibilities to stand up in the face of prejudice and hatred and bullying.”
Speaking of responsibilities, Kepley said over the past few months she kept returning to Frank’s own words: “It’s utterly impossible to build my life on a foundation of fear.”
“This idea that she would not give in to fear, not give in to despair, that she always keeps hope alive,” Kepley said. “For me, this play reminds me of my responsibility to my family, my neighbors and people around the globe who I might never meet. It felt like this play could offer us inspiration, hope and courage.”