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). Continue reading “Diary of Anne Frank has relevance in today’s world”→
Martensville High School’s “Poe” production has wrapped after a three-night run, but images and impressions linger – stunning costumes and props in starkly contrasting black and white, an often-sinister-at-times-playful musical score, crisp poetry recitations, the feverish movements of Poe’s feathered pen and his tormented writings, a larger than life cast of characters.
A long line for the Dessert Theatre was already queued in the foyer at 7:00 p.m., waiting for the theatre doors to open. Students created a delectable variety of selections under the watchful eye of Home Economics teacher Della Muench.
It is difficult to quantify the dramatic effect of the play. It’s power lies in its fascinating uniqueness and bold performances. Written by high school teacher Micah Robinson, the play captured the ‘strange and tumultuous’ life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe.
When the lights went down, lost love captured our attention in ‘The Raven.’ Poe felt his topic was best expressed through the death of a beautiful woman, who is mourned. The Raven appears as a spooky black shrouded figure with a beaked nose who growls, “Nevermore” in a low guttural voice, at regular intervals in response to the grieving lover.
‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ first appeared in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine in 1839. Hysteria grips the main character who has a mysterious disease, and is frantic with fear about the disease.
The Telltale Heart reflects the raving thoughts of a servant or more probably, a son who murders his father, but insists he is not ‘mad.’ He is blown away by his own cleverness in committing the perfect crime but then becomes increasingly agitated and owns up to a couple of officers.
There’s a nod to pop culture as one character suggests that another character “get a life.” The Telltale Heart brings in some timely humour.
Robinson’s debut work as a playwright is ambitious and immensely creative. He first studied Poe a bit in university, then taught Poe and his works, and then became interested in Poe as a person. “What a great character to write a play about, because it can be very fantastical.”
Period elements, like Victorian Era costuming, blend with modernizing effects on the ‘steam-punky’ side, with the inclusion of rivets, cogs and gears. The Victorian clock in the centre of the stage, skirts with the cage on the outside instead of the inside and exaggerated costume accessories (not to mention the writings themselves) all elevate the strangeness and contribute to the sense of fantasy. Poe is often in the background but his importance as a central figure never wanes.
Everything went off like clockwork. As director, Robinson is able to get very strong performances from his actors. How does he do it? “I have very high expectations. I like to keep it fun, but I also have a strict practice schedule. The kids know this is something they’ve got to pour into, and they do. I’m so proud of them.”
That pride extends to the work his brother Jared did to write the original score for the play.
“And I’m proud of the amount of people who came on board to make it a success – those who made the desserts, the costumes, built the set and all of that. It’s definitely not a one man deal.”
Martensville is about to enjoy another visual and artistic feast with the upcoming production of “Poe.” The play delves into the ‘strange and tumultuous’ life of American writer and literary critic, Edgar Allan Poe.
Director, and Martensville High School teacher Micah Robinson, wrote the play and then embarked on a collaborative process with students of the Theatre Arts Class to flesh out the production.
“I’m so proud of the students because of what they poured into this production,” said Robinson after a rehearsal a couple of weeks before opening night.
The play moves between history and fantasy, giving expression to what’s going on inside Poe’s mind. The Theatre Arts Class designed and built the set, and designed and sewed the costumes. To capture the sense of fantasy they used black and white in both, to create an other-worldly feel.
Period elements are blended with the modern in immensely creative ways. The Victorian Era of Poe’s time is reflected in the set and costuming. “I wanted to make it strange and modernize it so that it was a little steam punky. So we’ve got lots of rivets and gears and cogs,” said Robinson.
A massive clock takes centre stage and forms the backdrop for Poe as he sits and writes. His stories come to life around him and he often jumps into them. Some costuming and set details are overplayed to express the desired fantastical element.
This production offered Micah an opportunity to work with his brother Jared who wrote the original score for the entire play. “The students heard the music being built and coming together, and every time he sent us a new piece, we would incorporate it into our practices. It was exciting for them knowing we’re all building this together and they’re a part of it,” said Robinson.
Culture buffs may want to explore some of Poe’s poems beforehand to enhance the experience of the play and gain that sense of recognition while watching. Some of his best known works – The Raven, The Telltale Heart and the Fall of the House of Usher – are treated in the production.
The dessert theatre event offers evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on February 2, 3 and 4 at the Martensville High School Theatre. Tickets are $15, however the show has already sold out. “We have three packed shows. It’s the fastest we’ve ever sold out, for sure,” said Robinson.