David Ira Goldstein brings The Diary of Anne Frank to town

Haunting Return 

David Ira Goldstein brings The Diary of Anne Frank to town. 

By David M. Brown

David Ira Goldstein always wanted to stage The Diary of Anne Frank.

After wrapping a 26-year run as artistic director at the Arizona Theatre Company in June 2017, he opened a production of the show at the Geva Theater Center in Rochester, New York. Now he’s returning to the ATC as artistic director emeritus with The Diary of Anne Frank from May 17 to June 3 at the Herberger Center in Phoenix.

“I have always wanted to do this play, and it is one of a number of projects I have been able to pursue in the last year,” says Goldstein, who recently visited the haunting Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht 267 in Amsterdam, where a reconstructed bookcase marks the hidden entrance to the annex.

“I was gratified to see so many young people visiting it.”

The Anne Frank cast features six Arizonans, including Harold Dixon, a Tucsonan who plays Mr. Kraler, a trusted Frank business employee, and Tempean, Brenda Jean Foley, as Miep Gies, another family friend who protects the secret of those in the annex and safeguards the diary until turning it over to Otto Frank after the war.

Devon Prokopek, a Cave Creek native and graduate of Pinnacle High School, Paradise Valley, and the University of Arizona, plays Margot, Anne’s elder sister. She is returning to ATC in her first role as a professional after appearing while a student in Fiddler on the Roof, also directed by Goldstein.

Intern actors from UA and ASU also participate. Brooklyn, New York, native Anna Lentz is Anne.

The story’s appeal is strong and universal: “For all of the pain we experience in these characters, we see a fountain of hope, joy and longing, too,” Goldstein says. “Even as we face this tragedy as an audience, knowing its outcome, we see some of the best in people, such as Anne’s first kiss with Peter (Van Daan).”

A play to capture the conscience

The Rochester and ATC versions follow the original Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett play, which premiered in New York City October 5, 1955, later winning a Pulitzer Prize for drama. This version debuted in 1997 at the Music Box Theatre in New York, adapted by Wendy Kesselman. Fifteen-year-old Natalie Portman was Anne.

Some of these updates resulted from re-placing original passages Otto Frank edited out. He died in 1980. Others have since been revealed.

Changes to the play reveal Anne’s pubescent coming-of-age and her often strained relationship with her mom, Edith, played in Rochester and Arizona by New York resident, Naama Potok, daughter of author Chaim Potok.

“I love her,” she says of Edith, noting that she visited the Anne Frank House as a girl and, in preparation for the role, researched Edith’s life on line.

“I found in my research that Edith felt how difficult it was to raise her daughters in such close quarters, in the presence of other adults who are not their parents. I have a great deal of respect for her,” adds Potok, whose family lost 102 members during the Holocaust.

The last searing vision of her is through Otto at the end of the play, recalling Westerbork, an internment center where the family had been sent on the final train, September 3, 1944: “Edith worrying about her children, washing underclothing in murky water.”

The Diary of Anne Frank comes to Arizona as Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans are dying quickly. Living memories must now be transformed into a communal memory of the tragedy of those dark times and the triumph of light and life.

For Prokopek, the role has reaffirmed her career direction and the importance of remembrance: “By being immersed in the story, I realize how beautiful and sad it is and how relevant it is today,” she says. “It’s so important to practice tolerance and to work together.”

“We have tried to honor both the horror and inspiration of the Anne Frank story,” Goldstein says, “and we have dedicated it to the survivors in awe of their willingness to share the darkest part of their lives in a continuing message of faith and hope.”

 

The Diary of Anne Frank

arizonatheatre.org

May 17 to June 3

Herberger Theater Center

222 E. Monroe, Phoenix

 

 

 

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