'Diary of Anne Frank' a moving production at Aurora Community Theatre

by April Helms | Special Products Editor Published:

What does one do after watching an emotionally powerful show such as "The Diary of Anne Frank" at Aurora Community Theatre?

The audience on opening night gave the cast a silent standing ovation. No applause, just stunned silence, before the audience members rose to their feet in recognition of the heartachingly beautiful production.

Anyone who has studied World War II is familiar with Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who, at 13, went into hiding with her family and another family in her father's workplace. The two families, along with a local dentist also forced into hiding, received food and news from two brave individuals for a little more than two years. Those who know the story of Anne, who kept a detailed diary of her time in The Annex, also know the unfortunate ending; those in the Annex were betrayed in August 1944, less than a year before the war's end and were sent to concentration camps. Of the eight that lived in The Annex, only Anne's father Otto survived.

The play and its cast capture beautifully the everyday struggles within The Annex -- the squabbles over different personalities -- against the bigger backdrop of fear of discovery and horror as the war dragged on.

"It's such an enormous responsibility to capture real people and a real time," said Roseann Canfora, who directed the production, after the opening night show. "I knew the cast had risen to the occasion but did not expect the audience to react like that. This was a cast that was committed from the beginning. They all went on a diet, so they could look hungry. They rehearsed almost every night in January."

Jack and Jenifer Warren, real life husband and wife, play Otto and Edith Frank, Anne's parents. They said that they were in a production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" about 10 years ago, and the audiences then also gave them a standing silent ovation.

"It gave us goosebumps, said Jenifer of the reaction.

Susan Henthorn of Aurora, who played Mrs. Van Daan, said that she has visited several of the concentration camps and the Anne Frank House.

"I've been to the Anne Frank house a couple of times," Henthorn said. "It was easy to internalize the space. He Germans are very open to what happened before. There is great, great value in reading and learning about the past. There are similar persecutions in different places manifesting in many parts of the world, some we know about, some we don't."

Kiara Durbin of Twinsburg, who plays Anne, said that this was her first lead role and first nonmusical she has been involved with.

"It was really hard to manage all the lines," said Durbin, 11. "But when we got them down, we did amazing things. It was so moving. I feel so privileged to be a part of this."

Other cast members include Megan Lebowitz as Anne's sister Margot; Bill Whitaker as Mr. van Daan, Otto Frank's business partner; Mitch Pollock as the Van Daan's son Peter; and Kevin Horak as the dentist Mr. Dussel. Jennifer Smith plays Miep Gies and Gary Baskt plays Mr. Kraler, the two who helped keep the eight in the annex hidden. Dan Hild, Greg Stein and Chris Macchione appear as Nazi soldiers towards the end..

Ticket and show information

"The Diary of Anne Frank," which was adapted by Wendy Kesselman from the play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, can be seen through Feb. 22.

Tickets at $16 for adults, $11 for age 18 and under, are available online at auroracommmunitytheatre.com, or through the box office at 330-562-1818.

Aurora Community Theatre is at 115 E. Pioneer Trail, near the intersection of Route 43 and 306, at the gazebo, in the center of Aurora.

Next on stage

The theater will produce "2 Across" for two weekends, March 7 through 15, as its annual benefit show.

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