Anne Frank died in March, 1945, when she was just 13 years old, a victim of the Jewish Holocaust conducted by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
But she lives on forever through her diary, a poignant and highly personal account of the two years she and her family spent hiding from the Nazis in a small annex in Amsterdam in. The diary made a world-wide impact when it was discovered following the liberation of the Netherlands.
The diary was eventually published in the form of a novel, and in the 1950s it became the basis of an award-winning New York stage drama.
Now, that original, unadapted script is being brought to life again by student actors at Martensville High School (MHS).
Under the direction of teacher Micah Robinson, The Diary of Anne Frank is in its final set of rehearsals leading up to three public performances at the MHS Theatre on February 8, 9 and 10.
“This is a play that has tremendous relevance for our world today,” said Robinson in an interview at the school on Wednesday, January 10. “The issue at the heart of this play is one that we see all the time now.
“The reality is there are people who are ill-treated everywhere. It’s not just something that only happened in the past.
“It’s one thing to look back on the rise of Nazi Germany and the systematic mass murder of Jews, and say somebody should have done something to stop that earlier.
“But it’s quite another thing to recognize those things when they are actually happening, and to step in before it’s too late.
“That’s the real message in this play.”
Robinson said the cast members, all students at MHS, have been working on the play since September. By the end of October they had their lines memorized and their focus shifted to interpreting their character’s speech and mannerisms.
“I want the kids to figure out their character for themselves,” said Robinson. “The goal is to have them feel what their character is feeling, and portray that as truthfully as they can on stage.”
Robinson, who has been directing MHS student plays for eight years, said this production features one of the smallest casts so far.
“There are only ten actors, and eight of them are on stage throughout the entire play,” said Robinson. “That emphasizes the reality of their situation, living in such close proximity to each other without a break.”
The title character of Anne Frank is played by Grace Flegel. Robinson said he was very impressed with her performance in a supporting role during last year’s production.
“She did a phenomenal job last year,” he said. “And when she came in to audition for the role of Anne Frank, she just nailed it. I felt like I was watching Anne already.”
Flegel is shown in the character of Anne Frank on the MHS poster advertising the play.
Other cast members include: Brendan Butler, Cassidy Funk, Steven Baldwin, Katherine Daku, Connor Hamelin, Dylan Berk, Avery Smith, Noah Fehr and Greta Strueby.
While some of the actors have stage experience, others are completely new to theatre. But they’re all completely committed to their roles, and Robinson said he expects this production to meet or exceed the high standards audiences have come to expect from MHS plays.
Tickets for the play have been going fast, and Robinson said he expects it to be another sellout crowd. In addition to the evening public performances, the play is also scheduled to be viewed by students at MHS and other schools. Tickets are available at the MHS main office.