AMSTERDAM – Anne Frank’s tragic story is returning to the stage in Amsterdam, hoping to engage a whole new generation with the Jewish teenager whose diary is the most famous chronicle of life under Nazi occupation.
Thursday’s opening is the first time a theatrical production has been forged directly from Frank’s actual writings since an award-winning 1950s play that escalated her tale — then little-known — to the world’s attention.
“A lot of people think they know the story, but once you see this you will get to know a lot of details you don’t realize,” producer Robin de Levita told The Associated Press in an interview.
“We show historical footage to create a relationship between what happened in real time and what happened while they were in hiding,” De Levita said. “We follow her whole life and look over her shoulder, see what she experienced.”
With the blessings of the charity that owns the diary’s copyright, “Anne” uses Frank’s own words, including some passages excluded from the original published diary.
The play is being staged in a specially-built 1,100-seat theatre in Amsterdam’s west port area. The 15-meter-high (50-foot) stage includes a revolving replica of the secret canal-side apartment where Frank and her family hid for 18 months from the Nazi forces occupying the Netherlands in World War II. They were betrayed in 1944 and deported.
“You can see the relationship between the rooms, between the people, what actually happened while they were in hiding,” De Levita said.
Anne died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp weeks before it was liberated in 1945. Her father, Otto Frank, survived Auschwitz and later published Anne’s diary, which had been saved by Miep Gies, one of the Dutch “helpers” that brought the family food and other supplies.
Anne’s cousin Buddy Elias, her nearest surviving relative, will attend the opening, along with the Netherlands’ King Willem Alexander.
The play also features multimedia elements incorporating music and film. Although the actors speak Dutch, starting in July there will be headphone translations into several major languages, along with a synopsis for computer tablets or smartphones.
The Anne Frank Fonds in Basel, Switzerland, which owns rights to the diary and oversees the Frank family legacy, said it sought out theatre-makers and scriptwriters in the Netherlands, hoping a new theatrical production could promote its mission.
“It’s important to have an educational program which will bring in today’s times the story of Anne Frank to a young kind of audience,” said Fonds spokesman Yves Kugelmann.
The Dutch script was written by one of the Netherlands’ best-known literary couples, Leon de Winter and Jessica Durlacher. Tickets range from 20-70 euros ($25-$100) but the Fond’s licensing fees go to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s fund.
The original Broadway play “The Diary of Anne Frank,” won the Tony Award for best play in 1956 — beating out Tennessee William’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” — and won a Pulitzer Prize for drama.
That made people re-examine the diary, which had not initially been successful. The diary has since gone on to become the most widely-read document to emerge from the Holocaust.
Durlacher said the world’s understanding of the diary has changed significantly since the 1950’s, when Otto Frank withheld some pages dealing with Anne’s discovery of her sexuality and some of her feelings toward her mother from its initial version.
“We are the first to see and go in, to use the original text again,” she said.
Rosa da Silva, who plays Anne, said it’s difficult to balance Anne’s vitality and keen observational powers with the knowledge that the story ends in Anne’s death.
“You think: Oh! But she wanted it so bad! She would have been such a great author!” da Silva said.
Durlacher said she had gained a new appreciation for Anne as a writer.
“The thing that makes this diary so touching and so emotional is, of course, the context and the ending,” she said.
The diary breaks off on Aug. 1, 1944, three days before the family was arrested by German police on an anonymous tip.
“That’s not an ending,” Durlacher said. “There’s no ending to it, it could go on forever. It should have gone on forever.”