The Diary of Anne Frank to Open at LCT
The next production to take to the Lyche Theatre Stage at La Crosse Community Theatre is the stage adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, as adapted by Wendy Kesselman. In this transcendently powerful play, Anne Frank emerges from history a living, lyrical, intensely gifted young girl, who confronts her rapidly changing life and the increasing horror of her time with astonishing honesty, wit, and determination. An impassioned drama about the lives of eight people hiding from the Nazis in a concealed storage attic, The Diary of Anne Frank captures the claustrophobic realities of their daily existence—their fear, their hope, their laughter, their grief.
The play was originally written in and premiered on Broadway in 1955 with a script by Goodrich and Hackett, who adapted the work from Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, posthumously published in 1947. The stage adaptation went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Tony Award for Best Play. The script was then translated to the screen in 1959 by Goodrich and Hackett and went on to win three Academy Awards, including one for Best Supporting Actress for Shelley Winters in the role of Mrs. van Daan. In 1997, the play was revived on Broadway in a production that starred Natalie Portman in the title role, with a newly adapted book by Wendy Kesselman. In 2016, Kesselman made some minor changes to her adapted script, which is the version being presented onstage for the first time at LCT in the company’s 59-year history.
Anne Frank’s original writings first hit bookshelves in 1947 after she began writing in her initial diary in June of 1942, shortly before the family was forced to go into hiding after her older sister, Margot, was officially summoned to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany. Together, with the family of her father Otto’s business partner and a local dentist, the eight of them went into hiding in an upper annex to Otto’s office building beginning in July of 1942. Concealed by a movable bookshelf in the main portion of the office building, the inhabitants of the annex were not allowed to go outside and only had a certain window of time throughout the day in which they would be allowed to speak, listen to the radio, and use the water closet, for fear that they might be heard from the levels below them. With the help of friends and colleagues, they were able to be successfully concealed inside the annex for two years and one month.
The inhabitants of the annex were discovered in August of 1944 and immediately sent to Nazi concentration camps. There were suspicions that the families were betrayed by an informer and Nazi sympathizer who had ties to the family, but later research suggests that they were discovered as a result of targeted “ration fraud,” since food and goods rationing was being widely implemented during the war years. After many attempts from their friend and colleague, Miep Gies, to facilitate the release of the annex inhabitants, they were sent to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944. Edith Frank, Anne’s mother died in Auschwitz shortly after Anne and her sister, Margot, were transferred to the camps at Bergen-Belsen in October 1944. It was there that after months of serving in the work camps that Margot and Anne both died. While the cause is not officially known, it is suspected that they died around February or March of 1945 as a result of a typhus epidemic that was coursing through Bergen-Belsen. Anne’s father, Otto, remained at Auschwitz through the end of the war and was the only surviving member of the inhabitants of the annex. When he returned to Amsterdam, Gies presented him with Anne’s diaries that she kept hidden following the arrest of the annex inhabitants. It is from these writings that the eponymous diary was compiled and printed for publication.
While the events of World War II seem to be a thing of the distant past, there are many social and world events that evoke similar actions and emotions, even in 2023. “Anne Frank should be alive today,” says director of the production, William Garcia. “She should be a great-grandmother in Amsterdam, living the last years of her life surrounded by friends and family. But hatred ended her life and nearly eradicated her people. If we are not vigilant, if we do not bear witness, this hatred can erupt again with the same results.”
The Diary of Anne Frank opens Friday, March 24 and runs through Sunday, Sunday, April 2. There will be a talkback following the performance on April 1, featuring guest panelists Rabbi Brian Serle and members of the local Congregation Sons of Abraham. To find out more about ticket availability for The Diary of Anne Frank and the remainder of our 2022-2023 season productions, visit www.lacrossetheatre.org or call the box office at (608) 784-9292.