Westerville News & Public Opinion

'Anne Frank and Me'

Today, World War II entwine in play

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MARY POSANI/THISWEEKNEWS
Cast members from Westerville North High School's production of Anne Frank and Me (from left) Jennifer Finkelstein, Maya Becker, Faith Dreisbach, Sarah Bright, Matt Wollam and Ben Prohl perform at dress rehearsal Monday, April 7. The play will be presented April 10-12.

Westerville North High School actors cross cultures and time with their spring play Anne Frank and Me.

The Diary of Anne Frank connects to today's generation in Playwright Cherie Bennett's Anne Frank and Me.

Nicole Burns, protagonist portrayed by senior Faith Dreisbach, is more concerned with pop culture than historic culture. Nicole is assigned in school to read The Diary of Anne Frank, despite her Holocaust-denying parents' wishes.

In a series of unfortunate events, Nicole enters into a coma, and while unconscious she is transported back to Paris during World War II.

Along the way, Nicole sees her family and friends as different people in a different time period.

She becomes part of a French family and learns about the war efforts and the Jewish population. Later, she eventually finds herself sitting next to Anne Frank in a cattle car to Auschwitz.

Nicole learns about the time, the tension and that her parents' notions about the Holocaust were incorrect.

Although the play tackles a difficult topic in world history, junior Sarah Bright -- who plays Nicole's younger sister, Little Bit Burns -- described the plot as an emotional roller coaster.

"When lots of people think of a show like this, they think of it as a tragedy, but it is literally everything," Bright said.

"There are some sweet moments, there are some sincere moments, there's some really funny moments and there's a lot of really intense, sad moments.

"You get all of it in one show," Bright said

Play Director Kim Mollahan said students have learned valuable insight about the time period, Jewish culture. They also learned some of the French and German languages.

Mollahan said students prepared for the script with extensive background research. They reached out to fluent German and French speakers and experts about the Jewish faith.

"It has a cultural experience for my cast and for me as a director," Mollahan said.

"I'm not fluent in German or French or the traditions of the Jewish culture. It has been fascinating to us -- the prayers, songs, cedar ritual -- all those wonderful things. It has been a great experience."

Students learned to speak some German and French for the piece and they also designed the set, costumes and music to match the time period and mood changes.

Many high schools perform The Diary of Anne Frank, but Mollahan and the cast liked this twist to connect today's audiences to World War II era.

Since the plot takes place in both post-millennium and the 1940s, the cast agreed the most challenging aspect was jumping time period and characters.

"It's kind of draining because you go from happy hip-hop kids of the modern world to a horrible thing that happened in true life," said Jennifer Finkelstein, a junior who plays Nicole's friend, Suzanne Lee. "It's really hard to just flip."

Anne Frank and Me performances are at 7 p.m. April 10-12 in the Westerville North High School theater, 950 County Line Road. Tickets are $6.

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