"Grown-ups have lived their lives and made their wars. We kids didn't start these wars or make these messes. We deserve a chance to live our lives." This is a paraphrase from Anne's line in "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul. I attended this performance as a chaperone with about 200 eighth graders from Forestview Middle School. It was stunning. The cast of characters were exactly how I have pictured them through my readings, imagings, and visit to the Annex in Amsterdam.
After a mad dash to the restrooms and a speech on proper theatre etiquette, the students found their way to their assigned seats and settled in, wiggles, giggles and all. I sat amongst them, down front, theatre left. The stage was set as if it were left in disarray. The music played low, that haunting strain of violins in a minor key. The house darkened, and the children quieted.
Otto Frank enters slowly, from the lower staircase, the one hidden by a bookshelf, but never fully concealed. Miep is with him, new life in her belly, while they survey lives too soon ended. Otto picks up pieces of their existence, lovingly strokes a glove, glances at empty rooms, overturned chairs, and turns to leave. Miep holds out a box, "There's papers in here, letters. Don't you want to read them?" No, says Anne's father, shaking his head, lifting a hand, waving away the pain. "Anne's diary," says Miep as she holds it out to the lone survivor of the Annex. The story unfolds as a memory.
To see photos of the 8th grade fieldtrip and read more of the review of the play, go to my writer's blog, www.maryaalgaard.blogspot.com.
For more information on tickets and shows at Park Square Theatre, go to www.parksquaretheatre.org. The students were encouraged to come back and use their ticket again, for free, and bring a guest.