The SUNY Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance continues the 2012-13 Walter Gloor Mainstage Series in April with its production of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
"The Diary of Anne Frank" will be presented in Marvel Theatre at Rockefeller Arts Center with six performances from April 12 to 20. It will be directed by Jessica Hillman, assistant professor with the Department of Theatre and Dance, who directed the sold-out Mainstage run of "The Sound of Music" in 2010.
The play tells the story of a Jewish family forced into hiding in an effort to avoid Nazi persecution during World War II. The story is told through the diary entries of 13-year-old Anne Frank.
The Frank family arrives in the annex space where they will hide from the Nazis in a scene from the SUNY Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” From the left are Margot Frank (Taylor Sheehan), Edith Frank (Sophia Howes), Otto Frank (Nicholas Gerwitz) and Anne Frank (Haley Beauregard).
The Mainstage production will utilize Wendy Kesselman's 1997 adaption of the original work by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.
"The original version was a product of the 1950s, so it held back some of the details," Hillman said. "This newer version by Wendy Kesselman confronts the reality more specifically. It's a harsh reality, but you can't gloss it over. I think that's important - it has more impact."
Hillman said she has studied and done research on the Holocaust and has been waiting for an opportunity to direct this show.
"It's the most important production I have ever directed," Hillman said. "I saw it when I was in college and it had a huge impact on me."
In addition to the story itself, Hillman said the set, which was designed by student Samantha Sayers, will make an impact on audience members.
"It's three stories - it's huge," Hillman said. "The height and scale are impressive."
The design also paid particular attention to the annex - the attic space where the Frank family took refuge for two years.
"The design went off the real annex where the family hid. It was a crowded space and we wanted to capture that feeling to add to the realism of the experience," Hillman said.
The director also noted the costume design students have dedicated a lot of time to research in order to create clothing pieces that are accurate to the period in which the story is set.
To help the cast and crew prepare for the production, Hillman arranged for a speaker from the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo to meet with students.
"A woman named Sophia came and spoke. She was the same age as Anne Frank and lived in the same area," Hillman said. "She even attended the same school, although she did not know Anne Frank."
Likewise, Sophia had a parallel experience during the Holocaust and ended up in a concentration camp.
"She lectured about not being a bystander to any kind of bigotry or hatred. In the Holocaust there were three groups - victims, persecutors and bystanders. Sophia said the last group was the largest and most dangerous," Hillman said. "It was important to expose the students to the realities of what happened. It was first-hand testimony. She was so inspirational."
Dates and show times for the SUNY Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance production are April 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee at 2 p.m. on April 14.
"The Diary of Anne Frank" is sponsored by the M&T Bank as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.
Tickets are available through the SUNY Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center (673-3501 or fredonia.edu/tickets).