Pennington Players are bringing “The Diary of Anne Frank” to Kelsey Theater, weekends, March 11 to 20. A reception with the cast and crew follows the opening night performance on Friday, March 11. There will be a post production talk back session with the cast and crew after the performance on Friday, March 18. Tickets are $18.
Now ingrained in world history, it is easy to forget that story was developed out of the personal journal of a young girl learning to become a woman in 1940s war-torn Amsterdam. Written while she, her family, and four others hid from the Nazis, Anne Frank’s diary has prevailed for generations as a tribute to the human spirit. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and the Tony and Critics Circle awards for best play, “The Diary of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, edited by her father, Otto Frank, was adapted for the stage by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.
Miep Gies, one of the protectors of those in the attic and the one who saved Anne’s diary, is portrayed by Kyla Mostello Donnelly, a former resident of West Windsor and a graduate of WW-P High School. She now lives in Levittown, Pennsylvania.
“I love playing strong, independent women,” says Mostello Donnelly. “Miep Gies was an amazing yet humble woman. I am honored to portray her. Learning about her own childhood struggles as a refugee, the true love story she had with her husband and fellow helper Jan, and reading her firsthand account of what life was like in Amsterdam during the war only increased my respect for her and her role in helping multiple Jewish families.”
Wendy Kesselman provided a new adaptation of the play in 1997. “The original script is longer than the newer version,” says Mostello Donnelly. “The newer version contains more traditional Hebrew songs and Jewish traditions than the original and starts with the hiders arriving at the annex. This combination allows the audience to get to know the hiders and helpers, watch their relationships grow, and be fully invested before the inevitable ending.”
“`The Diary of Anne Frank’ is a great testament to living in the present,” says Judi Parrish, the play’s director. “It is set in one of history’s darkest time periods, but out of that comes incredible light and hope from the strength of Anne’s spirit. Just imagine the books and commentaries Anne Frank might have written had she survived. Anne’s diary has as much meaning for us today and it did when it was first written. We should not forget the past, it informs the present and guides the future. This is a story we are honored to tell.”
Isabel Kinney of Cranbury, last seen at Kelsey as Helen Keller on the Kelsey stage, portrays Anne. Frank family members include Jack Bathke of Robbinsville as Otto Frank; Sara Thier of Newtown, Pennsylvania, as Edith Frank; and Gabrielle Cody of Lawrenceville as Margot Frank. The others hiding in the attic are Paul Cohen of Newtown, Pennsylvania, as Hermann Van Daan; Alana Caraccio of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, as Petronella Van Daan; Evan Braasch of Bordentown as Peter Van Daan; and Matthew Cassidy of Morrisville, Pennsylvania, as Albert Dussel. Mr. Kraler is played by Sheldon Zeff of Newtown.
Parrish, a resident of West Trenton, also designed the set and sound design. The production team includes Sally Page of Princeton as producer and costumer; lighting designer M. Kitty Getlik of Hamilton; properties by Dottie Farina of Hamilton; with Vicki Kaiser of Cranbury as the stage manager.
“Audiences will not only see Anne’s story, but the stories of all the characters and will walk away with a better understanding of their struggles and hopes,” says Mostello-Connelly. “The experience has been wonderful. The cast and production team are incredible.”
The Diary of Anne Frank, Kelsey Theater, Mercer Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. Drama. $18. 609-570-3333. www.kelseytheatre.net.