Jewish Ensemble Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank encourages hope
The Jewish Ensemble Theatre’s (JET) production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” is giving students a chance to see her brought to life at matinee performances held at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.
Based on Anne Frank’s personal diary chronicling her life and thoughts as she and her family hid from the Nazis during WWII, this production focuses on Frank’s relationships with the other inhabitants of the annex of her father’s office, and highlights the struggle she felt to be heard as a young woman.
Taylor Morrow, of Warren, Michigan who is playing the role of Anne for a third year, said that the long rehearsals in the beginning were more focused on learning and understanding, but now her perspective on the role has shifted.
“I was really focusing on her youthful bravery this year,” said Morrow.
The actors had just two weeks of rehearsals before performances began, as most of them have performed in these roles before. Linda Ramsay who plays Edith Frank, Anne’s mother, has been in her role for seven consecutive years.
“You’re able to stop thinking and just live there and notice,” said Fred Buchalter who plays Mr. Van Daan and has been in his role for three years. Many of the actors said knowing these roles so well gives them a chance to explore them further. Mike Suchyta, who plays Peter Van Daan, said this year he has been able to develop his relationship to Otto Frank, Anne’s father, as an adult male role model.
“I think my role in the show is very much the idea of hope,” Morrow said. She thought Anne, as the youngest inhabitant of the annex, is a symbol of the whole family’s desire to have a happy ending, “my job is to show that it wasn’t all bad … there was fun, there was joy.”
The set design by Peggie Marshall-Admunsen was limited to a defined space in a small portion of center stage. Cast members ceremoniously placed white tape around the minimal furniture to represent the incredibly confined quarters shared by eight people for over two years. The actors conveyed internal personal struggle, growth, and intimate relationships that developed while their characters hid for their lives. Anne’s personal journey as portrayed by Morrow incited a sense of hope, joy, and love that transcends adolescence and speaks to the child in all of us who wishes to be heard.
This is the 23rd consecutive year the JET has produced “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
“There has never been another theater that has produced it continuously for this length of time,” said Henrietta Hermelin-Weinberg, a co-founder of the JET.
The show will be moving from the Berman Center for the Performing Arts to the Detroit Film Theater of the Detroit Institute of Arts, on March eighth. Student matinees at the DIA will continue through the 16th of March. A public performance at the DIA will be held on Sunday, March 11, at 7p.m. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the Jewish Ensemble Box Office at 248-788-2900 at $12 for children and $18 for adults.