WCP brings a timeless classic to their 62nd season
By Libby Nicolay
When young Anne Frank began hiding from the Nazis in her family’s attic in 1941, all she would have to find comfort in for the next two years was her diary. In it, she’d relay the horrors of the ongoing war, her imaginary friendship with “Kitty”, and her dreams about falling in love and publishing her writing.
Anne Frank’s preserved diary, published posthumously into the famed The Diary of A Young Girl, is known around the world and has been translated into more than 70 languages. Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett eventually adapted Anne’s writings into the 1955 play The Diary of Anne Frank, which portrays the strength and hope of Anne and her family while in hiding. Westminster Community Playhouse will continue their season with this celebrated classic, directed by Priscilla Gonzalez-Suciu.
Set in Amsterdam during World War II, The Diary of Anne Frank portrays the Frank family’s desperate grasp at normalcy inside their home, knowing the horrors that may await them outside. Anne’s family, like many other Jewish parents during the Holocaust, tries eagerly to protect her and maintain her innocence while they hang on to their slim chances of survival. The heaviness of this story, with its balance between family life and persecution, requires a great deal of nuance and authenticity from both the actors and creative team. Despite everything going on, Anne was still a playful and innocent child, naive to the world around her, and she wrote constantly about her future beyond the war.
Gonzalez-Suciu draws a special personal connection to this story. After previously performing in James Still’s Holocaust play And Then They Came For Me, Gonzalez-Suciu recently had the opportunity to meet Anne Frank’s surviving stepsister, Eva Schloss, while Schloss was still living in Los Angeles. They spoke about this production, and their conversation inspired much of Gonzalez-Suciu’s vision for this play.
“I feel, for my part as a director, I owe much more to this project than a regular production because of the significance of it and because it’s as important of a story today as it was [when] it was published,” Gonzalez-Suciu explained, noting the extra weight that comes along with directing a play like this one. “I think it’s a story that just never really fades.”
She also mentioned the importance of bringing historical accuracy to the design elements of the play, including the details of the set pieces and props audiences may see on stage. Gonzalez-Suciu has taken a keen interest in replicating Anne Frank’s exact 1940s home and the household items that the family would’ve owned, including the real board games the Frank family would’ve played.
Gonzalez-Suciu mentioned that, although audiences may or may not notice these smaller details, they are still crucial in maintaining the integrity of Anne’s story. “[We’ve done] a lot of that type of research, where the average patron will come in and they won’t know, but we know,” she said. “It’s important for us to include that, even though it doesn’t directly translate to an audience-member, but it’s still important for us to make those type of things work and bring them to the stage.”
The production has already garnered strong interest from local community groups, including both Jewish and non-Jewish groups, school groups, and local senior clubs. Anne’s story is an important one that transcends racial, religious, and cultural divides, and WCP is eager to welcome audiences of all ages and introduce a new generation to an important piece of our collective history.
Gonzalez-Suciu acknowledged that most everyone who walks into this play will already know Anne’s tragic ending. But there’s something profound in bearing witness to her family’s extraordinary resilience, acknowledging that the beauty and tragedy in the world can often coexist side by side.
Gonzalez-Suciu wants this story to be one rooted in hope, and one that highlights Anne’s pure and unwavering spirit in the midst of global terror, which is something we can relate to even today. There’s much more to be learned from Anne’s story than just her death, as she famously wrote in her diary: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart.”
Libby Nicolay is a writer, literary manager, and local theater enthusiast working in the entertainment industry throughout Orange County.
‘The Diary of Anne Frank’
Westminster Community Playhouse
7272 Maple Street, Westminster
March 17 - April 2, 2023
(714) 893-8626, https://www.wcpstage.com/