BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Staff Writer
A tragic chapter in world history comes back to life as the Clarkston High School Drama Club presents “The Diary of Anne Frank,” on April 27-28, 7 p.m., at the performing arts center.
The Frank family, a Jewish family living in Amsterdam, Holland, goes into hiding with the Van Daan family in an attic until they are eventually found by the Nazis during World War II.
Senior Serena Chiappelli steps into the of Anne Frank, whose diary was found after the war ended.
She explained it was kind of difficult to get into the role of Anne at first.
“The struggles in my life seem so minute compared to what this whole family had to go through,” Chiappelli said. “The whole cast has really helped each other get into those characters because it’s really easy to get into the character. It’s been interesting because it’s something I haven’t done. I normally play character roles. This is more a real life person. I had to take the attributes of myself and use it to drive Anne’s character.”
Senior Wes Hutchinson steps into the role of Anne’s father, Otto.
“His main goal at all times is to protect himself, his family and all the others in the annex,” Hutchinson said. “He’s very gentle, very close to Anne. Playing the role is interesting because towards the end you get some of the aftermath. Trying to portray a role is carrying that burden of living with these people for up to two years, almost three years, all taken away from you including your family, is a challenge. It is something that has to be done well because it is important.”
Senior Autumn Steinman plays Mrs. Van Daan, also in the attic with her family.
“My character is very much a troublemaker,” Steinman shared. “She loves to start drama. Everything has to be big. She loves her fur coat. She’s very petty about things in a way. She doesn’t necessary like the living situation she’s in. She tends to be very extra in her actions and how she interacts with people in the home.”
“Otto is pretty much the opposite of Mrs. Van Daan,” Hutchinson added. “He tries to avoid trouble.”
Helping conceal the families are Miep Gies, a business woman who lives downstairs, played by Zoe Nygaard, and Mr. Kraler, a long-term business partner of Mr. Frank and Mr. Van Daan, played by Charlie Lussenhop.
“She’s not Jewish but she doesn’t like what’s going on,” Nygaard said about Miep. “She is super scared of what’s going on with the war happening. She helps the families and hides them in the annex with Mr. Kraler. She brings them food and books. She has a close relationship with them. She is very reserved, but also very kind-hearted and really brave especially being a young woman during this time and risking her life every day to save these people.”
Mr. Kraler assumes all the legal holdings of the businesses of Mr. Frank and Mr. Van Daan as the Nazi regime was seizing any property owned by those in the Jewish faith.
“I assumed all responsibility for their properties and businesses,” Lussenhop explained. “I am helping to keep them concealed. He is nervous and under an enormous amount of stress even before the war broke out from the work he was doing. Also, just trying to maintain the businesses and know there is always the threat of the secret police finding out what he is doing. He is trustworthy and a good friend to do everything he can to help them.”
For all five, it is their last show at Clarkston High School.
“It’s eye-opening to the whole experience because a lot of it is really upbeat,” Chiappelli said. “It shows the whole family dynamic and how they all connect with each other. It’s been a really good experience, and I am glad this is my last show is because I think it has a powerful message. It’s really cool to play this character as my last hurrah.”
Steinman added it is meaningful to portray real people and trying to follow the story of who they are and what they went through.
“It’s definitely more challenging than something fictional or comical,” Hutchinson added. “You owe it to the history to portray it well. I really enjoy having the challenge of it. It’s a nice ending to my high school acting career.”
Nygaard explained it was a different experience because she is used to telling stories through music as she has only been in musicals and her last production was “Mary Poppins.”
“I think it’s harder but in the sense of acting, these emotions are emotions people had to experience,” she added. “It’s easier to feel those emotions because we know what happened in real life. I find myself being close to tears in scenes without even trying because it’s such an emotional scene. It is hard to do something that happened in real life, but we owe it to these characters to do it well.”
Lussenhop, who was also in “Mary Poppins,” explained his last show was about how big and extravagent they could get to get the message across.
“With a story like this, where the story is so powerful and hard hitting, it’s the opposite. It’s about getting as intimate and personal,” he said.
The show is being performed for eighth and ninth graders from Clarkston Junior High School, as they read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as part of their curriculum.
The cast invites the community to come out and watch the show.
“It’s such a powerful story and coming from the eyes of such a young girl,” said Chiappelli. “It makes it even more mind blowing this young girl can have such a positive attitude throughout all the struggles in her life. It can impact everyone else’s lives even the people who are watching it because they can see whatever they go through they can overcome it by keeping a positive mindset.”
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is a play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
Tickets are now on sale at tix5.centerstageticketing.com/sites/clarkstonhigh or calling 248-623-4024.They are $7 for presale and $9 at the door.
The show is rated PG for mature themes and parental discretion is advised.