The story of Anne Frank has captivated generations of readers by providing a unique insight into the terrors of the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of a child.
Between 1940-42, Anne and her family managed to evade Nazi persecution by hiding in secret rooms in her father's office building. Anne's father, the only survivor, found her diary after the war.
Wendy Kesselman's new adaptation of the classic book confronts those terrors on behalf of a new generation by interweaving newly discovered excerpts from the depths of Anne's diary and framing the story with firsthand survivor accounts.
Director Elin Bhaird said she tried to approach the play from Anne's point of view, directing the show through a teenager's eyes.
"I want the students who see the show to relate to Anne, Margot and Peter," Bhaird said. "As suggested by the adaptation, we will not be using accents. I think an accent would make the story seem more removed. Students might think 'Oh, this happened in Germany; it could never happen here.'"
For the production, Bhaird worked to retain all the key elements of the story, while streamlining it to 105 minutes to make it more accessible to younger audiences. She cut the running time by reworking many of Anne's monologues as voiceovers played during scene changes.
"I hate when you are watching a play and the action just stops," she said. "This makes for a much more seamless production."
Bhaird said staging was the most challenging aspect of the production, due to the continuous action onstage.
"Even if the scene is in Anne's room, there is life still going on in the main room and upstairs. Thankfully, I have a great group of actors who fill in a lot of blanks," she said.
Media can provide a more immersive way for many to learn about important historical events, Bhaird said.
"History does repeat itself. However, studying the time period in class and even seeing the photos can make it seems so unreal," she said. "I think it's almost a defense mechanism "? you think this couldn't possibly be, because it happened a long time ago, that it won't happen again. The hope is for students to see the play and relate to the characters and have the realization, 'That could have been me.'"