News & Articles

Letter from the Artistic Director on The Diary of Anne Frank

by Martha Lavey

The Diary of Anne Frank does not need my elucidation. When our director, Tina Landau, was doing her research for the production, she came across an article in Newsweek magazine that indicated that the young girl, Anne Frank, was one of the most well-known historical personages of her century. The story of her family's experience and the survival of her diary, recounting that experience, are central in our cultural apprehension of the Holocaust. The diary of Anne Frank makes personal and human the face of an unimaginably cruel inhumanity. Anne Frank, while indeed an actual child in Amsterdam during World War II, also stands in for all of the innocents lost to the Holocaust. She has become, through the force of her beautifully eloquent and caring narrative, an iconic force. If I can assume your familiarity with the diary of Anne Frank and the story of its survival, the question to be explored, it seems to me, is why should Steppenwolf produce The Diary of Anne Frank? Steppenwolf is a theater that produces a great deal of new work and that brings fresh insight into the canon of dramatic literature. How does a well-known title like Anne Frank fit into that programmatic agenda? And how does Tina Landau, who is recognized for her innovative style as a director, approach such a well-known work? Is there an anomaly here? There may be. All I know is that when we were planning this season, we read a lot of plays. Our Director of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, Hallie Gordon, asked me to re-read The Diary of Anne Frank for consideration on our student series. I re-read the play and was knocked out by its deep humanity and the rich opportunity for beautiful ensemble acting. While it is obvious why the play is important for young audiences, it felt equally obvious that the play needs to be seen (perhaps again) by our general audiences. Tapping Tina as the director for the piece assured that the play would receive a fresh, energetic and deeply researched production. The last generation of Holocaust survivors is upon us. The people who hold the event of the Holocaust in living memory are passing. It becomes attendant upon all of us to remember and to educate our next generation to the memory. The gift of theater is to transmit that memory in human, specific, and personal terms--to make human the events of history. To produce a play that documents an historical reality and recounts, in fact, the story of a real person who lived that reality is an awesome privilege and an awesome responsibility. It is our hope that you will come to the theater to hear this young girl's story, and that you will find yourself in the company of others whose hearts have been opened. We encourage you to stay for the post-show conversation to engage with your peers in the shared experience of the play. We encourage you to see and feel, as though for the first time, The Diary of Anne Frank.