Crystal River High School’s Theater Department will present a heart-wrenching serious play on Oct. 6 and 7 — “The Diary of Anne Frank.” It’s the well-known true story of a young German Jewish girl who became famous after her death because of her diary she wrote while hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II.
Frank, along with several others, hid for two years in an annex above her father’s office until they were found and sent to a concentration camp.
The play was adopted from the book about her diary based on her life while in hiding from the horrors of the Holocaust. The stage production, seen around the world, won a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It debuted on Oct. 5, 1955, on Broadway at the Cort Theatre.
The play, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, is now under the direction of Michael Shier II, director of theater for CRHS, who is also director of Troupe No. 3793 of the International Thespian Society.
“After the great response to “Nunsense” in May — which was the first theatrical production done at the school in a number of years — I really labored over selecting the followup to that for this fall,” said Shier.
Shier said he read numerous plot synopses and scripts and “then, I happened to stumble upon ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’ Obviously, it’s a story everyone knows and it’s definitely a challenge creatively, so I liked the idea, but I was noncommittal.
“Then, the strangest thing happened: I was in a supermarket and, as I walked up to the checkout line, there was a magazine near the register and a face on the cover of LIFE magazine was the 70th anniversary of her diary’s publishing! I was sure it was a sign that I needed to commit to the choice and now here we are.”
“‘The Diary of Ann Frank’ has played to audiences around the world and will now come to CRHS 70 years after its first publication,” Shier said.
For many of the drama students participating in this wonderful play, theater is new to them or they are doing something entirely different in this production. But, their enthusiasm is obvious. The students are touched by the play that puts them into a completely new era for them, as drama students in the present day.
Nina de Leon is the stage manager and is as excited as the rest of the drama students. She loves what she does and enjoyed “shopping for costumes.”
Sarah Spivey plays Anne Frank and said one of the hardest parts of acting in the serious production and putting oneself in that time frame is, “getting into character after talks with Mr. Shier, especially going to a different culture than today.”
“Going from a modern day age to the 70th anniversary (of the diary) is difficult,” Spivey said.
Tristan Green is Mr. Dussel in the play and feels the play has “emotional depth,” and that Shier encourages them to become better actors.
“Mr. Shier inspires us to do our best,” Green said. “Acting as real people inspires us to do our best.”
“I like seeing it all come together,” added Tony Toney, who portrays Peter Van Daan.
The cast is: Ann Frank — Sarah Spivey; Peter Van Daan — Tony Toney; Mr. Frank — Jerry Blakely; Mrs. Frank — Kym Heintzelman; Mr. Van Daan — Steven Penn; Mrs. Van Daan — Casey White; Margot Frank — Rebecca MacRae; Miep Gies — Hailee Thomas; Mr. Dussel — Tristan Green; and Mr. Kraler — Riley Vick.
The crew is: Nina de Leon — stage manager; Riley Vick — assistant stage manager; Casey White — props mistress; and Aimee Guthrie and Skylar McAvoy — props crew.
Tony Toney is set crew chief; set crew is Jerry Blakely, Nina de Leon, Abby Erikson, Tristan Green, Aimee Guthrie, Sydney Laxton, Tatyana Lopez, Rebecca MacRae, Taylor Pickering, Emma Schwartz, Sarah Spivey, Hailee Thomas and Riley Vick.
Abby Erikson is lighting designer, Emma Schwartz and Joanna Sikes are sound designers. Kym Heintzelman is costume designer and the costume crew is Jerry Blakely, Tristan Green, Ashlynn Name and Sarabelle Slicer.
Rebecca MacRae is hair and makeup designer, and Olivia Hughes-York is on hair and makeup crew with Sarah Spivey and Hailee Thomas.
Front of the house manager is Skylar McAvoy; front of the house crew is Tatyana Lopez and Ashlynn Name. Backstage crew is Hope Bhend and Aimee Guthrie.
“I’m loving how the script finds new ways to challenge not just me, but my cast and crew every single day,” said Shier. “My sound director spent days looking for just the right sound effect for a street organ. My costume and props designers went through every thrift store in the county, on top of our trip to Lake Howell High School costume shop in Winter Park, to bring these people and this place to life.”
Shier said his cast has left rehearsal in tears because they are working so hard to connect emotionally to the real-life people they are representing on stage. This reminds him of why he comes to work every day and why he spends more time with these students than he does with his own family.
“I really think I learn just as much from them as they do from me,” Shier said.