SINCE it was first published in 1947, The Diary Of Anne Frank has remained a massively important part of world history. As a book, it's been translated endlessly and is highly regarded as one of the greatest pieces of writing in history.
As a play, it’s a moving work that directors often gravitate towards for its depth and cultural significance.
Anne Frank’s story of survival during the Holocaust, before ultimately being captured and sent to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany, where she died, is one that has simply endured the generational dilution of history. It’s a singular work that captures a unique perspective during one of the most horrific periods in human history, and the Savannah Repertory Theater is bringing it to life on their stage.
The show, which opens on September 27, stars Molly Franco as Anne Frank. Franco is no stranger to the role, having assumed it twice in the past. It’s a role that hits home for the young actress, as her grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.
“10 years ago was the first time I ever played the role,” she says. “I live in New York now, and I’ve always kind of itched to do it again. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. As an actor you always kind of wish you had a chance to go back to the really challenging ones and do them again as you get older and better. So when I saw that a theater was doing it, I went and hoped that my previous experience in the role would show through. Luckily, they liked what I had to offer and I got the chance to come do it.”
Franco says she always re-reads the diary each time she goes into the role, and always learns something new that influences her portrayal.
“The older you get, the more you realize the gravity of what they were going through,” she says.
For both Franco and director Nick Corley, the decision to take on Diary was one they both say was impacted greatly by the issues of race, xenophobia, and religious discrimination that have dominated headlines over the past several years.
“I think it’s important to do this show right now, with the global rise of extreme nationalism,” Corley says. “It speaks so poignantly to that, and in a very personal way. The issues of the play are more contemporary now than they’ve been in years. Which is why a lot of theaters across the country are looking at this play again.”
“I think a lot of people recognize that though [the Holocaust] was horrible and it ended, it could happen again. It’s sadly very relevant again. It should obviously always be told so we don’t forget what happened then, but I think it’s important to realize that nobody could believe it [at time time]. You never thought it would happen. And I think that’s how a lot of people are now,” Franco adds.
One of the most enduring things about Anne Frank’s story, from Franco’s perspective, is her spirit and sense of positivity amid the most frightening experience of her young life.
“She looked at it as an adventure, and she still saw the good in people and the good in life,” she says. “She’s not like anyone else, and I think that’s why this story lived on. She was so special, and for someone to be that young and to have that perspective is pretty crazy. It’s extremely inspiring.”
Corley agrees, saying that Diary is about “people living their lives as best they can, in a positive way, in spite of what was happening.”
For Corley, the play also has some personal significance. His 98-year-old father passed away just weeks ago, and was a navigator and bombardier during WWII.
“He was at D-Day. He bombed the Amsterdam Airport. It’s really been interesting working on this play right now, having just lost my father,” he says.
$25 general admission, $20 seniors/kids