Playhouse in the Park Presents "The Diary of Anne Frank"
Playhouse in the Park presents a new adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank by Wendy Kesselman, a drama about the lives of eight people hiding from the Nazis in a storage attic during WWII and the claustrophobic realities of their daily existence, fears and hopes. The story emerges from the historical account written by Anne Frank and her thoughts on the experience and growing up. Director Don Fleming and cast member Amanda Futrell, who portrays Petronella Van Daan, stop by Sounds Good to preview the production, opening this weekend.
Don Fleming said the play selection committee chooses the shows each season, taking home and reading several for consideration. They chose this seminal piece of 20th century literature. This adaptation by Wendy Kesselman is a revival of the original play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. This version is more faithful to the book, Futrell says, whereas the original eliminated much of the characters' 'Jewishness' and that Otto Frank was still alive at the time of the original production. No one wants their daughter to appear too sassy or hard-headed, she says, so this version presents a deeper understanding of the memoir.
25 girls auditioned for the role of Anne and casting was a challenge, says Fleming. He made his decision based on the people the girls read with, and how they fit in together as a family. For Futrell, "It may have been a happy accident, but I have to tell you that Wendy Waltrip who plays Anne is always going to be the Anne Frank to me.... they're so much alike," citing her independent spirit and her interest in writing.
There are two acts, the first ending with the group's first Hanukkah. A thief breaks in and steals the cash box, Anne has a monologue in which she starts to feel the frustration of the being cooped up and not being able to go out. In the intermission, she talks about how we're trapped in a blue sky, surrounded by dark clouds, says Fleming.
The set was a challenge, Fleming says, because the Annex where they hid was a four-story building. He spread out the floors on stage using levels and a raised stage to give the impression that they were upstairs.
On playing Mrs. Van Daan, Futrell says she has some bad qualities: materialistic and talking too much, but she's also good humored and honest. Anne describes Van Daan as "hard working, cheerful, coquettish and sometimes a cute face." Futrell remarks that later on, Anne describes herself in much the same way, recognizing their similarities. Futrell says she tries to play her character as a mirror image, where Anne is becoming a woman and Van Daan feels like she's losing her femininity.
The play runs two weekends, March 20-29, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.