Oak Ridge actor keep Anne’s spirit alive
Why see a play when you already know the tragic ending? Why remember an event that so many would like to forget?
“It’s history,” explained Julia Garcia, assistant to the assistant director for Oak Ridge Drama’s “The Diary of Anne Frank” production opening March 20. “There were so many lives lost and this (play) shares the inside perspective of a young girl … just one of so many lost.”
Though the play touches on a heavy subject — more than 6 million Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust — the play’s theme centers around hope, and Anne Frank’s words of hope will fill the theater as the curtain closes, said Director Janet Henke.
Acting in the lead role as Anne has special meaning for freshman Delaney Kelleher, 15. Her great-grandparents died at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland; her grandfather and great-uncle, orphaned children, were frequently moved around to prevent the Nazis from finding them and spared their parents’ fate.
“She’s just an amazing person,” Delaney said of Anne. “What she and her family went through … It’s a story that’s very heartwarming and heart-wrenching.”
Otto and Edith Frank lived in Frankfurt, Germany, with their daughters Margot (born in 1926) and Anne (born in 1929) until 1933 when they fled Nazi persecution and moved to Amsterdam where Otto opened a new business and the Franks felt safe. In 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and the family, helped by some of Otto’s employees, went into hiding. They shared a secret annex with Hermann and Auguste van Pels, their son Peter and Fritz Pfeffer. “The Diary of Anne Frank” covers these years in hiding before the group’s August 1944 arrest. Otto Frank was the sole survivor; he published his youngest daughter’s diary in 1947.
Delany and ORHS junior Alanna Underwood, playing Margot, said they now have even more respect and admiration for the Franks and their friends in hiding. Both read Anne’s diary in sixth grade but the Frank sisters’ lives became much more to the actresses when they stepped into their roles.
“It’s devastating,” said Alanna, 17. “You’re filled with hope and joy and terrible, terrible agony.”
That agony also weighs on actor Keith Walisa, who plays Otto.
“Otto did all he could to protect everyone,” Keith said. “I try to imagine what it was like for him to fail … It’s awful.”
Seventy years after one of the most heinous events in human history, Anne’s story still fills theaters across the globe. It’s important to keep the story alive so history never repeats itself, Henke said, and so people realize that persecution has not disappeared. “We still live in a world where there is hatred and war,” she added, “and people are still taken away from their homes and their families.”
“The Diary of Anne Frank” (PG-13) opens at the Oak Ridge High School Theater, 1120 Harvard Way in El Dorado Hills, on Thursday, March 20. Showtimes are 7 p.m. March 20-22 and March 27 & 28; 2 p.m. matinees on March 22, 23 & 29. Tickets are $8 to $12; reserve seats by calling (916) 390-3727.
Cast: Anne Frank (Delaney Kelleher), Otto Frank (Keith Walisa), Edith Frank (Katelin Tanda), Margot Frank (Alanna Underwood), Miep (Madison Ganas), Peter Van Daan (Matthew Kozak), Mr. Kraler (Conlan Kisilewicz), Mrs. Van Daan (Sarah Shelnutt), Mr. Van Daan (Jack Breedlove), Mr. Dussel (Austin Daly), First Man (Nick Campanello), Second Man (Tyler Riensch-Bowman), Third Man (David Fregoso).
* Note from AnneFrank.org: “In the actual book ‘Het Achterhuis,’ the real names of a few people are disguised. Looking ahead to possible publication, when Anne edited her diary she made a list of pen names for the people she wrote about. Otto uses some of Anne’s names, others he changes.”
Crew: Director Janet Henke with special consultation from Golde Block, Assistant Director Cynthia Mouzis, asistant to the assistant director Julia Garcia, technical director Luke Rolls, set design byAustin Daly, Luke Rolls and Larry Summerfield, lighting design by Luke Rolls with assistant Liam Driscoll, sound design by Holli Stapleton with assistant Margaret Koldinger, costume design by Samantha Summerfield and Sandra Summerfield with assistant Brooke Martinez, stage manager Riley Bogar, assistant stage manager Caedon Masters, properties by Brianna Marquess with assistant Madison Hamilton, lobby display board by Breanna Marquess, photography by Jordan Metzger and voice-overs by Delaney Kelleher (Anne), Jonathan Rolls (BBC announcer) and Ron Thomas (President Dwight D. Eisenhower).