Anne Frank - Enduring Lesson
One can argue that some lessons have been given too often, too long and that they have worn thin.
Yet there are some lessons that we obviously need to hear again and again, because the behaviour of mankind is such that it cannot be said that we have learned enough if anything from our past. And that is what these lessons deal with, the past, - a past that is still relevant in the present.
Ideologies and religious philosophies always deal with such lessons, have for time memoriam, and will not be denied by modern theories of psychobabble and other rhetoric. Through artistic presentations we have an opportunity to examine and re-examine any given part of history for its merits and content of truth. By doing so we certainly hope to discover what would shed more light on something obviously not fully digested as yet, which explains the need for continuous re-examination.
If the venue is always the same then there is not much to be gained in the way of a different point of view. But if the presentation has new elements or introduces a changed point of view, then we can expect perhaps more enlightenment and a richer experience.
The newest Toronto production of Anne Frank, by Marshall Arts and directed by Alexander Gallant, does just that. For the first time there are previously missing elements included, that make the story more relevant for those interested in the subject of religious freedom, or the –still- absence thereof.
By including Hebrew text and songs the story has a sudden injection of authenticity and of urgency to be heard again. This production, like few before, leaves the viewer somewhat exasperated, asking: Why are we doing such things to each other?
Anne Frank’s very own thoughts on boys and her pubescent sexuality had been stricken in the previous Broadway script of the 1950, which was modeled on the actual diary. But in this modern version we are to realize that times have not changed since girls grew up in the 194ies, regardless of their particular circumstances. Being in hiding does not change the human experience in that regard. Nature will demonstrate its urge to survive and cast its spell over the available choices, even in dangerous situations.
This is reason enough to see it again, even though one has seen it many times before.
The production in the Bathurst Street Theatre in Toronto features very fine talent across the board, right down to the very smallest parts.
Jennifer Waiser is already quite a known tour de force with her 26 years. Playing Anne Frank was a challenge close to her heart. Of course she feels that this story needs to be told again and again, "so we never forget", as she put it in the many interviews she gave. But this is not the only reason, or perhaps not even the most important one.
She gave a sparkling performance of a child growing into womanhood, with all the attributes one would expect of such a person: curiosity, defiance, love of life. It was easy to recognize some of the same human feelings and attributes in young women today.
Andrew Gillies, a Shaw Festival veteran, was a caring and concerned father, husband, friend, and sadly - a sole survivor.
Edith Frank, the frail mother, was portrayed by Carol Lempert, showing tremendous inner strength despite her worries.
Shira Leuchter played the quiet older daughter with a sense of responsibility, yet nearly frozen by her fear.
Sarah Dodd, the two time Stratford Festival Tyrone Guthrie Award winner, brought her immense ability for nuances to the part of Mrs. Van Daan, as did Philip Shepard, as her much weaker husband, who cannot deal with his hunger.
We live in a world were terror is still at home. Currently this dragon has raised its ugly head more and louder than in a very long time and it threatens not to go away. Terror is terror, no matter what color uniform it wears: brown, red or camouflage. Man’s inhumanity to man is as real now as it was 500 years ago, when Dr. Martin Lutter reformed the Christian church, or 2000 years ago when the Romans conquered everything in sight, or 65 years ago, when the various oppressive forms of National Socialism and Fascism permeated Europe, or only a few years earlier when communistic regimes drenched the earth with the blood of millions.
The fight for freedom is an ongoing one to this very day.
Why else would young people rally to tell these stories or go to see them? Interest into our history is at an all time high. There are good stories and there are those we would all love to avoid. But as long as we cannot trust one another on this earth, as long as we do not have permanent peace, we will have these stories to tell.
Till November 7 at the Bathurst Street Theatre…
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