Di­ary of Hope

YCT brings classic to stage at St. Paul’s Cul­tural Cen­ter

Yuma Sun - - NEWS - BY JOHN VAUGHN BAJO EL SOL EDI­TOR

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.”

LOANED PHO­TOS

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).

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