Bronco Drama will bring a somber portion of history alive as 13 cast members portray “The Diary of Anne Frank,” a Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play. The show will kick-off at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 19 at Dan Pessano Theatre, and will run through March 28.
The play is based on the diary accounts of Anne Frank, a 13-year-old Jewish girl who is forced to go into hiding with her family and four others in an attempt to escape Nazi persecution during WWII. They hid in the “Secret Annex” for a little over two years before they were discovered and sent to concentration camps, where all but Anne’s father, Otto Frank, died.
After the war ended, Anne’s diary was discovered and later published as “The Secret Annex” on June 25, 1947. The play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” was written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett in 1959, and has been newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman.
Clovis North Educational Center Drama Teacher Joel Abels selected this play for a number of reasons.
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“I wanted to challenge my kids with something a bit more dramatic, and I wanted to give them a serious piece that was both challenging to them as actors and was educational for them, too,” Abels said.
Abels said he has never done as much research leading up to rehearsals as he did for this play. On top of reading the play, Abels also took his students on a virtual tour of the Secret Annex and watched a drone flyover of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Each student was also required to do their own research of the character they are portraying.
“It was a really depressing week, it really was,” Abels said. “There were tears, but it bonded them together as a cast.”
Abels said he’s been impressed with the commitment and hard work he’s seen from his students.
“I hold them to a high standard and treat them like professionals - to them that’s just how Abels does it,” he said. “They don’t complain and come into rehearsal ready to work. It’s hard to switch gears from a day of high school to 1940s occupied Amsterdam, but they’ve been really great.”
Logan Cooley, 17, a senior at Clovis North, portrays Otto Frank in the play. Cooley said this experience has been much different from what he has done in the past, which is usually comedy.
“I’ve learned the most from this one ... and have much more respect for period actors,” Cooley said.
Abels takes his job - and the play’s topic - seriously and makes sure his students have the same approach.
“I told them we need to treat this piece with reverence and respect and without fail they have been amazing,” Abels said. “They have been so dedicated to this project and have been working as hard as they can to bring out their best performances and really pay respect to the piece. It’s been a really great experience.”
Brianne Gomes, 17, a senior at Clovis North, has been cast as Anne Frank in the play. After reading Anne Frank’s, “The Diary of a Young Girl,” for her history class, she became very interested in Anne’s life and her positive spirit.
“She has a more mature outlook for her age, and there were certain things I could connect with,” Gomes said. “Even though she lived in horrible conditions ... she still had this very uplifting way of going about life and her diary entries were super interesting. This diary was her friend that she could say anything to - she thought of it as her best friend.”
Gomes said portraying Anne has been difficult for her, because Anne‘s situation and experiences are so different from her own.
“There’s a lot of monologues, and she doesn’t understand why Hitler is doing this to the Jews,” Gomes said. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand what Anne is feeling, because I’ve never had to go through something like that.”
However, Anne’s spirit has made a lasting impression on Gomes, and she hopes it will do the same for those who attend the play.
“Her outlook on life and her situation, I think people should really take note of it,” Gomes said. “There are times she’s sad and depressed, but she also has an uplifting outlook and spirit, and I think people need to take that into consideration and learn from it.”
Abels said the importance of this play, to him, is the message that “we can never forget.”
“This is happening today in other countries still,” Abels said. “If you look at the news, this is happening. Not to this extent, but some form of this still exists. Racism still exists in our country. We can never forget and need to be reminded of this and have it put in front of our face to remember what this segment of society went through, and what others still continue to go through.”
The Diary of Anne Frank will be held at 7:30 p.m., March 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28, and at 2 p.m., March 21 and 28, at Dan Pessano Theatre, 2770 E International Drive, located on the Clovis North Educational Complex campus.
Tickets cost $8 for students and seniors and $10 for adults.
The show’s running time is two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.