Vivienne St. John, director of Main Street Theater’s Theater for Youth program, hopes its production of The Diary of Anne Frank, which begins a limited run at the MATCH on Sunday, will inspire the next generation to bear witness.
Premiering in 1955 and revised in 1997, The Diary of Anne Frank is a stage adaptation of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. The play recounts Frank and her family’s life as they hid from the Nazis from 1942 to 1944, as well as their arrest and deportation to Auschwitz.
Unlike the original version of the play, which a 1997 Variety article noted had been accused of inexcusably sentimentalizing “a tragic, angry document,” the revised show by playwright Wendy Kesselman “partially reasserts the historic Anne’s darker vision as well as the diary’s overt Jewishness.”
Kesselman and original director James Lapine “wanted to include more of the Jewish faith and its traditions in the play and some of the material from the diary that was originally not released by Otto Frank,” St. John says of the 1997 script, which Main Street is using for its production. The changes, she says, are something she appreciates because the Franks, who took refuge in a hidden annex alongside another Jewish family, the van Pels, “would have relied on their faith even more to get through this horrible experience.”
Although Main Street’s The Diary of Anne Frank is being staged through its children’s theater program, the company is recommending the show for those ages 10 and up due to its weighty subject matter. It has also teamed up with the Interfaith Ministries, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Holocaust Museum Houston to host special events in conjunction with the show’s themes. Following the Jan 26 performance, there will be a panel discussion on experiences of discrimination, and after the Feb 9 program Holocaust survivor Chaja Verveer will speak to audiences. Writers in the Schools has also worked with Main Street to coordinate special programming for students.
“It is now more important than ever to educate people about the dangers of history repeating itself,” St. John said in a press release when Main Street announced the show. “The Diary of Anne Frank is so impactful because it speaks to young people who will be the voice of our future and adults who have the power to create change immediately.”
Jan 26, Feb 9 and 16. Tickets from $16. The MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-524-6706. More info and tickets at mainstreettheater.com