What comes to mind about being 13 years old? Some people may remember their very first year of high school, or maybe even the first time they ever “like-liked” someone. Others might recall a best friend or perhaps wishing to finally have real friends. Anne Frank, a Jew in 1942 Amsterdam, lived a very different life than most young girls. Under Hitler’s command, Jews were not permitted to go to the library, movie theater or even use street cars. Her entire life was dictated for her, and she was only 13 years old.
An 8 p.m. curfew was enforced, and a yellow Star of David had to be worn on all articles of clothing. Their identity cards were even stamped with a large letter “J,” as though their religion were a disease for others to avoid getting close to. Anne Frank’s life is a typically well-known one, thanks to the diary she kept during her time in hiding. “The Diary of Anne Frank” was a play written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on the novel “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.” It depicts the well-known account of Anne’s experience hiding in the annex that served as her home for two years.
Directed by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s very own Eve Muson, this production was performed at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore, in a completely unique way. The stage, though typically sparse for the company’s productions of Shakespeare’s plays, was beautifully adapted to accommodate an intricate three-story set. The primary setting was on the lowest level on the stage itself and the other two stories were built upstage, against the back wall. The design of the set resembled the small rooms and levels of the annex. The Frank family went into hiding after Margo, Anne’s older sister, had been ordered to report to a forced labor camp.
The Franks made it appear as though they had fled: leaving the beds unmade, breakfast on the table and even abandoning their cat. Though the Franks’ friends and family were led to believe they had fled somewhere safe, they had really just hidden two and a half miles away from their home in the annex of Anne’s father’s office building. They hid with another family, the Van Pels, given the pseudonym Van Daan in Anne’s journal, and were later joined by Mister Dussel.
This eye-opening performance was devastating, incredibly chilling and, unfortunately, all too relevant in the world today. Excerpts from Anne’s famous journal were read aloud at occasions during the performance, and these firsthand accounts of such terrible circumstances moved a large majority of the audience to tears more than once. Even when the actors were not speaking, they had incredible energy and truly captivated the audience.
The actors were engaging, so much so that the Nazi soldiers sneaking into the annex went unnoticed by the audience until the scream of a child in the audience alerted them to the horror that was about to take place. The remarkable UMBC alum Hannah Kelly stars as Anne and seamlessly brought her audience into this world with her. She showed her connection to the character onstage as well as off. She said, “The story gets told so much … It’s about real people living their real lives going through the struggle, [and] it’s so beautiful to help [these people] to live on through telling their stories.”
Hannah’s stage presence flew off the stage and danced around the room in the form of a spirited young girl living a horrific nightmare. Though the history is familiar to many, it is easy to just view it as a part of the past.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is a beautiful, well-done story that everyone needs to see. To see the brutal events staged so vividly means opening the audience’s eyes to the true evil present in this world. Now more than ever, it is so important to remember the destruction and casualties wreaked by the Holocaust to ensure that nothing even remotely similar has the chance to happen again.