Students in Reedsburg Area High School Drama Club said they had “mixed emotions” when “The Diary of Anne Frank” was chosen for its spring production because of the dramas somber topic and the stress of bringing the historical characters to life.
They hope the emotional connection presented in their characters will resonate with audience members and show the importance of keeping those stories alive.
The drama club will present the play based off of Anne Frank’s diary she kept while in hiding for two years, when Nazi Germany was persecuting Jewish and other ethnic groups during World War II. Her diary portrays her life with her family and four other people during their time hiding in an attic-the Secret Annex-at her father’s company in Amsterdam.
The club will present the newly adapted version of the play written in 2016 by Wendy Kesselmann at 7 p.m. April 12-13 and 2 p.m. April 14 at the Cal Center. Tickets are available at the door for $5 per person.
Director Kristin Gesteland said she decided on the play because of the importance of the story, how it explains the Holocaust in an artistic and entertaining way.
“I think it’s always an important story for people to know,” Gesteland said. “Drama is meant to entertain, but I think it is also meant to teach lessons and to provide insight into humans and I think this play does it as well as any.”
Reedsburg’s production of the play comes about five months after Baraboo High School made international headlines for a photo showing students in an apparent Nazi salute on the steps of the Sauk County Courthouse. Gesteland said she had been thinking about doing the play for about a year and a half and the photo had “no connection” with her final decision to present it.
“I feel like there are so many things going on all over the world,” Gesteland said. “Dealing with racism, dealing with prejudice, which is why dealing with acceptance and including all people is an important reminder.”
Gesteland said the production will have voice overs from historical figures to portray the world outside the Secret Annex during World War II. She said side by side pictures will be posted of the real life people from Anne Frank’s diary alongside the actors who portray them. She said a display case will contain non-historical items meant to represent those who were killed at the hands of the Nazi’s during the Holocaust.
Gesteland said reading the Diary of Anne Frank is a requirement for the districts middle school students. Senior Meghan Ferge will portray Anne Frank and said the play is more eye opening because it is a more in depth adaptation of the characters relationships with each other. She was surprised about Frank’s “faith in humanity” when being persecuted in Nazi Germany during World War II.
“I guess I wasn’t expecting that from her being as young as she is,” Ferge said.
Junior Mary Gawronski plays Miep Gies and is the student director. Gawronski said she looked more in depth in her character to better portray Gies, who hide the Frank’s and is one of the people responsible for publishing her diary.
“Looking in that and knowing that even though it’s a small character on stage what she did was so huge,” Gawronski said. “It kind of fuels what you are doing and makes every moment on stage feel very precious.”
Gawronski said she encourages people to come to the play to gain a different perspective of the book.
“When you see it on stage you are going to remember the facial expression, you are going to see the movement and emotion, rather than what is kind of a figment in your imagination,” she said. “Which you can kind of work up from reading it.”
Anyone with questions can call Gesteland at 608-768-8928 ext. 1243 or email@example.com.