High school thespians to stage ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home High School students will present a winter play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 18-19.

Teacher and director Alain Brown said the actors have been on shorter deadlines than usual, and by Thursday, all of them had their lines down.

“We still have a lot to finish up in terms of painting the walls, things like that,” Brown said.

As indicated by its title, he play is based on Anne Frank’s diary, published by Otto Frank, her father, who survived World War II and the Holocaust.

“It’s all about Jews going into hiding,” said Tyler Burch, who plays Otto Frank.

The play follows the story of the Frank family hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. Dutch Jews hid to avoid being sent to Nazi concentration camps, where 6 million Jews were exterminated during the war.

“It’s based off of Anne’s diary,” said Kylie Johnson, who will play Anne Frank one of the two days.

Sophia Brown will play Anne Frank in the other performance. She noted that Anne wanted to be a writer after the war, but died from typhus in a concentration camp.

At age 15, she had some personal things that she might not have wanted to share in her diary, Brown said. They weren’t published, initially.

They’ve been included in later editions, but the high school play will leave them out, Johnson said.

The play is a bit different than usual for the high school. Usually, the students perform lighter fare, like comedies and love stories. This one is more tragic.

“We’re trying to make people cry,” said Kat Kinker, who plays Margot Frank, Anne Frank’s older sister.

Sophia Brown said it’s “a different challenge.”

“I’ve never played like a real-life human being, got into character while respecting who the character was.’

They have a responsibility to be true to the character because they were real people, said Alain Brown. “What we did the other day is we talked about what true suffering is.”

He suggested that cast members go outside and be cold or not to eat for awhile to help them start relating to the characters in the play.

As a result, some of the actors have taken a step into method acting.

“I go home, and I don’t go out of character sometimes,” said Maddee Hawken, who plays Mrs. Van Daan, another Jew in hiding.

“To get into the role, some of the crew actually fasted to see what hunger was like,” said Molly Fisher, who plays Edith Frank, Anne’s mother.

Steen Davis, who plays Mr. Krawler, who helped hide the Frank family, said he tried to “immerse” himself into his role.

“So, I haven’t eaten in two days,” he said last week, though he admitted eating a granola bar to help keep his energy up.

“Anne and her family, they did eat, obviously,” Sophia Brown said, but it was scarce, plain fare, like potatoes and rice. Eight people were getting by on seven ration cards. “They were tired and worn-out.”

“They had a real life,” Hawken said. “They kept going. They were a family that had real family drama.”

The play isn’t part of a club or class, which is typical of school theater this time of year, said Alain Brown. Like the annual spring school play, students tried out for the parts.

“I was looking for something smaller, something more dramatic, with name recognition,” Brown said. “This is pretty serious, minute A to minute last.”

Cast members include Sophia Brown, Kylie Johnson, Tyler Burch, Molly Fisher, Kat Kinker, Emily Ramsey, Alexis Johnson, Corbitt Sanders, Maddee Hawken, Sarcon Major, Steen Davis, Bailey Wicker, Donovan Davis, Christian Black, Ty Gruwell, Ashley Johnson-Foss, Annalee McIntosh, Hailey Tre, Hanna Borten, Sidney Hooley, Hazel Blank, Melissa Evans and Ruby March.

In addition to public performances, the group will present the play Thursday afternoon to sixth- and seventh-graders who have read the book as part of their classwork, Brown said.

The play begins at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the Sweet Home High School auditorium, 1641 Long St.

For more information, call the school at (541) 367-7142.