Frank’s Famous Diary Dramatically Delivers on Stage, Jan. 19 – Feb. 7

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NCT_AnneFrank.jpgThe Diary of Anne Frank
(Ages 9 and older)
Nashville Children’s Theatre
25 Middleton St., Nashville
254-9103 – nashvillechildrenstheatre.org
Show times:
Mon – Fri 10 and 11:45 a.m.,
Sat – Sun 2 p.m.
(Sunday, Jan. 31 is sold out)
Tickets: $17 adults, $12 children

Nashville Children’s Theatre (NCT) has a great track record for delivering powerful dramatic works in its repertoire, and its current run of The Diary of Anne Frank is no exception.

Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s stage adaptation, under the perfect direction of Scot Copeland, presents a succinct sobering reality of man’s inhumanity to man – and in all of world history, nothing is more representative of mankind’s inhumanity than the horrors of the Holocaust.

After seeing the show and being so moved by it, I must admit that I spent the rest of my day internally questioning whether NCT’s suggested age minimum (age 9) was appropriate or not. I’m torn. On one hand, I’m not sure that 9-year-olds should be exposed to the depths of such grisly subject matter. The flip side, though, is my belief in the old adage that says if we don’t teach our children the truth of our history, as ugly as some of it truly is, then we’re eventually doomed to repeat it.

The outstanding cast members – Evelyn Blythe (Miep Gies, the woman who provides the hiding place for her Jewish friends), Rona Carter (Edith Frank), Jamie Farmer-Oneida (Margot Frank), Henry Haggard (Jan Dussel), Tia Shearer (Anne Frank), Peter Vann (Peter Van Daan), Sam Whited (Hermann Van Daan), Holly Wooten (Petronella Van Daan) and Bobby Wyckoff (Otto Frank) – infuse a top-notch element of drama and passion into their respective roles. Each of them executes incredibly striking performances that are real and captivating.

The drama builds scene to scene as the eight people struggle with being holed up in an attic above a store for 25 months in hiding from the Nazis. Carter in particular gives an outstanding performance when her character melts down upon the discovery of Hermann Van Daan’s treachery (stealing food rations in the middle of the night) and insists that his family should find an elsewhere to hide.

Wyckoff superbly delivers his role as Anne’s father, Otto, as does Whited as Hermann Van Daan. Haggard and Farmer-Oneida both nail their roles and brilliantly portray their characters’ panic-stricken mindsets.

Shearer is the real star of the show, and she magnificently brings to life young Anne, the central figure, who spent the first two years of her teenage life in hiding, documenting every tidbit in what was her beloved birthday present  – a red-and-white plaid diary given to her on her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942; less than a month later, her family moved into the attic that hid them for two years.

Keeping in mind that this is a real story, the beauty that shines beyond the nightmare is how Anne retains a sense of hope and belief that people are inherently good. Despite the dismal circumstances, Anne is a champion of hope, proven by her insistence to celebrate Hanukkah as well as her fervent dream of being a writer and going to Hollywood someday.

The pinnacle of drama on stage, though, is when the cast stands around the attic door as the Nazi’s work to bust it down. They know they’ve finally been caught, and while they realize their uncertainty, they still hold onto a glimmer of hope. This is an intense moment to the point of appropriate fright and sorrow.

After their capture, the eight souls who lived together in hiding were separated and sent to concentration camps. Eight months later, Anne died from a combination of malnourishment, typhus and the common cold.

The fascinating element about Anne’s life and legacy is that she dreamed of being a writer: and her diary to this day is the second most read book after the Bible, boasting 31 million copies worldwide in 67 languages.

The Diary of Anne Frank certainly gives you the opportunity to educate your kids about a segment of world history and an element of the dark side of humanity. There are a lot of talking points to share with your youngsters within this story, primarily a true example of young heroine who sought hope in the midst of undeniable hell on earth.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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