Diary of Hope
YCT brings classic to stage at St. Paul’s Cultural Center
Writing day by day in her diary, Anne Frank recorded the events of her and her family’s lives in hiding from an evil the world would come to know as the Holocaust.
Before it was brought to an end in World War II, Adolf Hitler’s program to wipe out the Jews claimed millions of lives, including Frank. Her father Otto, the only surviving member of Frank’s family, published her diary as a book that was read by generations of people wanting to draw lessons from that era.
Dannie Ayala first read “The Diary of Anne Frank” as a middle school student, then reread it again and again, each time inspired by Frank’s power to find hope amid horror.
And now Ayala and the Yuma Community Theater will bring the book to the stage in a play presented at St. Paul’s Cultural Center, 645 S. 2nd Ave. in Yuma, tonight at 7 and then each weekend through the end of the month.
“I thought it would be the perfect story to tell,” Ayala said. “For me, (the diary) is more of a comfort, since she had such hope and joy. She was only 14 and still believed so much in humanity itself. It’s so profound and so amazing. She was wise beyond her years.”
The production marks not only Ayala’s debut as a director of a YCT production, but also of the cultural center as a venue for the theater organization’s productions.
Germans by nationality, Anne, her sister Margot and their mother and father fled to Amsterdam to escape persecution. But then Germany conquered the Netherlands, and the day after Margot was ordered to report a German work camp in 1942. The Franks took refuge in an annex, consisting of several hidden rooms in an Amsterdam building where Otto had ran his business.
Joined by four other Jews, they remained there until all were found and arrested by the Gestapo in 1944. Anne and her sister died in a concentration camp in early 1945, a few months before Nazi Germany surrendered.
Anne’s father had her diary published after the war, and “The Diary of Anne Frank” was staged for the first time in the 1950s in a play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. That script, which won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, is the one being presented by YCT.
For the lessons it offers, “The Diary of Anne Frank” is no less meaningful and important today than when it was written three-quarters of a century ago, Ayala said.
“It will always be relevant because the human race always needs to know history, how (the Holocaust) happened, how we go from there, and how we prevent it from ever happening again,” she said.
“How do we stop it (from happening), how do we not succumb to it is really the lesson here.”
Ayala was by no means the only person in Yuma to see value in bringing the diary to the stage, given YCT had no shortage of people seeking parts in the play, and given the commitment of the cast in prepping for the production.
Fred Brown, a member of the Yuma Community Theater, taught lessons to the cast about Jewish history and traditions, Ayala said, and as part of their research for the play, the actors visited the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and spoke to Holocaust survivors.
Even as a set was being created to represent the annex that hid the Franks, work was still underway on a stage in the cultural center that Ayala said will help bring actors and audiences close together.
“Everyone just came together and put 100 percent into this show,” she said. The play is the first of four productions to be pre- sented by YCT in its 2017-18 season. All plays will take place at St. Paul’s Cultural Center.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” will again be staged at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday, and then at 7 p.m. Oct. 20, 21, 27 and 28, and at 2 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit http://yumacommunitytheater.org. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.
“I think everyone will have a different takeaway when they see it,” Ayala said. “Really it’s not a story of (despair); it’s a story of hope. This young girl who had the whole world taken away from her still saw the best in people.”
JACQUELINE GARZA STARS IN THE ROLE of Anne Frank, in the Yuma Community Theater production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which opens tonight at St. Paul’s Cultural Center. The cast rehearses a scene (right).