On October 12 and 13, Northampton Area High School’s Theatre Company brought the true and moving story of Anne Frank to life on stage in their production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
Based on the best-selling book “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” the play gives audiences a glimpse into the more than two years Anne and her family spent hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam annex during World War II.
The play opens after the end of the war, with Otto Frank, Anne’s father, returning to the empty annex where his family and their friends, the Van Daans, once hid. There he finds Anne’s diary and the play transports audiences back to 1942 and the Frank’s arrival to the annex.
The play follows the Franks and Van Daans as they live quietly above the shop along the Amsterdam canals. During the day, they can barely move and must sit quietly until the business is closed. Food and even water are limited. They are given rations and news from the generous Miep Geis and Mr. Kraler, employees of the shop.
As food and patience run low, tensions arise between the two families stuck in the small rooms hidden behind a book case. The impatient and grouchy Doctor Dussell soon joins the families in the annex. The audience witnesses the families during their fear of air raids and intruders and during their joys of Ally invasions. Soon, romance blooms between Anne and the Van Daan son Peter. However, only a year before the end of the war, the families are discovered by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. Only Otto survives.
The play was directed by Gianna Neal, who said she knew this heartbreaking production would not be an easy one for students. However, Neal says students in the cast “really tried to empathize with the people of the play.”
“I watched them have so many moments of clarity as they connected to their character on a personal level,” she continues.
Celia Doll portrayed Anne Frank, perfectly capturing the young girl’s innocence and her strength, not letting the walls of the cramped annex limit her imagination, kindness, and love for those around her.
Brandon Costanzo played Otto Frank, the patriarch of the family who leads them into hiding. He bravely attempts to maintain a sense of normalcy in the annex even as war and death wage around them. He teaches Anne, his daughter Margot, and Peter their lessons. He reads Anne stories. He even leads the families in a Hanukah celebration.
Elaina Bastow played Anne’s mother Edith. The protective Edith and Anne have a tense relationship at first, but soon grow closer. Senior Korina Zambrano played Margot Frank. Her quietness makes her different from her outgoing sister in every way.
Billy Bachiashvili and Kaitlin Kolonia played Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, whose bickering stands in stark contrast to the loving relationship of the Franks. When it is revealed that Mr. Van Daan has been stealing food, the couple is nearly kicked out of the annex.
Austin Fleury played Peter Van Daan. Stubborn and lonesome at first, Peter soon grows fond of the outgoing Anne and the two form a deep friendship that give them each something to look forward to as the war drags on.
Tulsa McGinnis played Doctor Dussell. Cranky and serious, his quarrelling with Anne brings several light moments to the otherwise heavy production.
Neal was impressed with her students’ ability to bring this story to life.
“They keep [Anne’s] spirit alive and breathe new life into her account of the war and [the Franks’] hiding,” she says.
This play, says Neal, teaches the student actors and the audience not only about “these horrific events in history, but also much about human nature, love, and growing up.”
They are lessons audiences can relate to 70 years later.