Friday, November 9, 2018

The Diary of Anne Frank—Battle Ground Drama Club—Battle Ground, WA

Growing Pains

    This classic true story is written for the stage by Francis Goodrich & Albert Hackett (from the diary of Anne Frank) and is directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry.  It is playing in The Lair in the high school, 300 W. Main St., in Battle Ground, at 7 pm through November 17th.  For more information, contact the director, henry.stephan@battlegroundps.org

    There are old adages that go something like this:  It’s my way or the highway and, if we don’t correct the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.  Both proven true in this divided, derisive atmosphere we are now living in, as we adults, in our infantile behaviors, still have not learned to live in harmony with others and Nature.  And the losers in these decisions—our Youth…and their/our Future?  But there is a trickle of hope in this leaky faucet, with the MeToo Movement, and the Youth that openly oppose unregulated gun ownership, and those young folks suing the government over polluting the atmosphere for future generation.  You go, gang!

    This present production of a young teenage girl, who didn’t survive the Nazi regime, has taught us an enduring lesson, as one of the final entries in her diary proclaims that she still believed, in spite of all the horrors she witnessed, that people are basically good.  It should shame us all!  And it seems to be through the young that we see the world, from the eyes of the innocent, the real Truth of situations. 

    Such films/books as “The Summer of my German Soldier,” “Life is Beautiful,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and this story, are some examples of the young observing that “Jungle” we have created for ourselves.  On a personal note, while teaching some K-5 students during the close call for the election of the President, between Bush and Gore, I asked them what would they do if they were faced with that situation.  One child said, they should share the Office… “out of the mouth of babes…!”

    For almost two years Anne Frank (Alyssa Carr), a precocious teen, her older but shier sister, Margot (Anabelle Melton), their wise Father, Otto (Killian Griffin) and stern mother, Edith (Maria Wetzbarger), are holed up in hiding in an attic area of her father’s business.  They are joined by some friends, the gluttonous Mr. Van Daan (Nathan Lenz), his snobby wife, Mrs. Van Daan (Mackenzie Linville) and their somewhat reclusive son, Peter (Luke Henrikson), who eventually strikes up a relationship with Anne.

    Added to this mix is the fussy dentist, Mr. Dussel (Chase Wrightson), and the go-betweens for them to the outside world, Mr. Kraler (Mason Gardner), Otto’s partner and Miep (Trinity Weaver), a special friend through all this conflict (only Otto and Miep will survive for some years after).  And there are briefly some Nazi soldiers that invade their space, Jerry Balch, Tanner Opdahl, Kenny Harmon and Jaden Denfeld.  The play consists of how these differing individuals manage to live together in tight quarters for these several months.  The sad irony is that this group was on one of the last trains sent to the death camps and Anne died of disease just days before the camps were liberated.

    This is a powerful story (made even more topical by the hate killings in a temple just recently).  Keep in mind that these students were just born this century, so have no personal connection to these events themselves, only pointing out, once again, the powerful tool theatre is to education the young as to past and present historic and cultural events.  Henry is a master at teaching/directing Youth and should be given every support in future endeavors of this kind!  His wife, Sundance Wilson Henry, as the scenic and costume designer, always enhances his productions, too, as she does here.

    The cast seems really invested in this production, as they all create specific characterizations for their roles.  As the two major players, Carr, as Anne, really seems to embody the spirit of the real diarist, and Griffin, as her father, touches us all with his strong presence in this ensemble, and especially in his closing speech…more than a few tears were shed from the audience, I’m sure.

    I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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