Simply nothing can stop the Huntington High School drama club, not even the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is set to present “The Diary of Anne Frank” in a virtual format.
Click on this link https://youtu.be/L0Ntyqonm0c to view the play. Auditions and rehearsals have been ongoing for many weeks. Everyone associated with the production is proud of the final product.
The cast includes Katherine Eichenberger (Otto Frank), Giada LoPorto (Anne Frank), Grace Allen (Edith Frank), Ariana James (Margot Frank), David Canas Granados (Peter Van Daan), Sarah Biernacki (Mrs. Van Daan), Ryan Aguirre (Mr. Van Daan), Lily Tierney (Jan Dussel), Lainey Carney (Mr. Kraler), Charlotte Simon (Miep Gies), Delia Caruso (officer), Landry Flynn (officer), Genesis Acevedo (officer) and Layna Abraham (narrator/stage directions.) Drew Spina is the student director of the play.
Ms. Frank was born in Germany, but moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands when the Nazis rose to power in 1933. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, she hid in a “secret annex” with Edith, her mother, Otto, her father and Margot, her sister from July 1942 until their arrest by the Gestapo (German secret police) in August 1944. It is still not known who betrayed the family or why.
Given a diary for her thirteenth birthday, Ms. Frank conscientiously kept it throughout her time in hiding. Some of it survived World War II and became a worldwide best-seller when it was published.
The family was eventually separated and different concentration and death camps and three of four members were murdered by the Nazis. Anne Frank and her sister both died after being stricken by typhus/typhoid fever brought on by overwork, malnutrition and filthy and inhuman conditions at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany, where they were both buried in mass graves. Edith Frank was killed at the Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland. Only Otto Frank survived Auschwitz and the war.
“Since I announced this fall’s (now winter’s) drama club production I have been faced with the same questions countless times; Why not a comedy? Why not a fantasy? Why not something to take our minds off being cooped up in our houses?” said drama club faculty advisor Michael Schwendemann, who is directing the production. “Upon reflection, here’s why: As I roamed my house from March until September, shopping online, reading, watching TV, having dinner with my family, escaping into the great outdoors only to walk my dog and glued to the media’s coverage of the civil unrest that gripped the nation day after day after day, I suddenly thought of what Anne and her family faced with a world gone mad, forced to wear yellow stars as identification markers as their rights were slowly taken away from them until they were ultimately forced into hiding just to stay alive. Please don’t for a moment think I am equating the COVID-19 quarantine complete with every modern convenience known to man to what the Frank’s and the Van Daan’s went through in ‘the secret annex,’ but I couldn’t help but think about how easy we have it compared to their lives in hiding with civil unrest at a safe distance travelling through a cable into our living rooms instead of outside our front door. I thought what a teachable moment for my students, not only to stretch their legs as performers, but to also come just a bit closer to a piece of history as they also live a life in ‘hiding,’ some fearful for their lives.”
Billed as an “impassioned drama” about the lives of eight people hiding from the Nazi’s 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, Mr. Schwendemann said.
The drama club needed to overcome many challenges associated with staging a production like this during a pandemic.
“How to rehearse, how to perform, how to reach our audience were just come of the challenges,” Mr. Schwendemann said. “The answer was in front of me all spring, all summer, all fall; Zoom. Our first virtual performance - if Broadway HD can do it - if Stars in the House can do it - why not us? The challenges were many. My being a dinosaur, using unfamiliar technology and most of all never rehearsing or performing in the same room, how do we bond, establish relationships both on stage and off or even connect with our audience. Thanks to a dedicated cast willing to spend the time and energy in order to take this risky journey with me we will now let the audience decide if our efforts were worth it.”
“The Diary of Anne Frank” by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett as newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman has been described as “powerful” as Anne Frank emerges from history as 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.
Mr. Schwendemann believes audiences will be moved by the play. “I want to be useful and bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met,” Ms. Frank said. “I want to go on living even after my death!”
“Little did Anne, an intensely gifted young girl know how prophetic her words would be,” Mr. Schwendemann said. “She lives on through each reading, each performance, as her words are just as timely today as they were when she put pen to paper over 70 years ago.”