production brings dark days to life
When our parents and grandparents were young, one of the terrible chapters in human history was taking place in Nazi Germany. Even now -- as a new century unfolds -- we are still trying to understand the atrocities committed by Hitler's army during World War II.
Amazingly, one of the best insights into this terrible time was the "Diary of Ann Frank," a collection of writings by a teenage Jewish girl during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Now -- more than six decades later -- the young girl's experiences are being brought to life on stage in McCook, Nebraska. On Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon, the Southwest Nebraska Community Theater Association will present the two-act "Diary" reenactment at the Fox Theater.
Despite the passage of years and the separation of continents, it is surprising how close and real Ann Frank's story is to McCook's cast and director.
Director Don Harpst, who portrayed Otto Frank and Dr. Dussel in past "Diary" presentations, has traveled to Germany, where he toured Bergen Belzen. That is where Ann and her sister, Margot, were buried following their deaths in 1945. "There are huge mounds, where up to 5,000 concentration camp victims are buried. It's a horrible reminder of man's inhumanity," he said.
Don is not alone in his study of Ann Frank. Whitney Pierson, who will play the role of Ann Frank in McCook, was born in Germany and has visited Ann Frank's hiding place behind the family's business in Amsterdam.
As Don, Whitney and others share their remembrances, the fascination with Ann Frank spreads. "The entire cast has become interested in the history of World War II," Harpst said.
The intense interest will be evident during this weekend's performances. To see for yourself, you are invited to attend the 8 p.m. presentations Friday and Saturday nights and the 2 p.m. performance Sunday afternoon. Tickets for the theater presentation are $9 each. For an additional $11, theater-goers are invited to come an hour and a half early (at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday) for dinner at Country Whimsey, Sehnert's or Mexico Lindo, or at 12:30 p.m. Sunday for lunch at Country Whimsey or Sehnert's. Cast members, in costume, will make visits to the restaurants prior to the show.
Theater presentations take tremendous commitment, not only by the cast and director, but by dozens of volunteers as well. When viewing the "Diary of Ann Frank," take note of the set, built by Chuck Trail, and listen to the background music, provided by Marie Coffey. Their contributions show the personal touch -- the caring, creativity and craftsmanship -- which transforms a playbook into a performance which inspires long-lasting, life-changing memories.