Imagine living in a small apartment with seven other people and not being able to leave for about two years. Those are the conditions dramatized in The Ritz Players production of "The Diary of Anne Frank."
The drama is to be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at The Ritz Theatre.
Adapted from "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," the drama by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett paints a somber picture of a troubling historical period and the hardships endured by citizens of Europe during the 1940s. It also honors people who risked their lives to protect Jewish neighbors and co-workers.
Friday, more than 800 school students are to view an excerpt of the play as part of the Discovery Series. Director Lois Eisenhard said this is to be the largest Discovery Series audience to date.
The tragic but classic story is on nearly every school reading list. It is told in first person by a real teen-aged Jewish girl who did not survive the Holocaust. Her words have lived on to educate future generations about the human toll of a modern-day genocide.
The saga begins as Mr. Frank (Lukas Frey) emerges from the orchestra pit to view what had been a refuge for his family. The only survivor, he picks up objects from the now-vacant space and weeps at the memories of his deceased family.
Following him is Miep (Gabrielle Mitchell), the young woman who had brought them food and news from the outside. Miep discovers Anne's diary and gives it to Mr. Frank, who reads a few of the passages.
Soon, Anne's voice takes up the narrative and the audience is transported back to the day the Franks and Van Daans fled from their homes and went into hiding above the offices of Mr. Frank's employer, Mr. Kraler (Bob Ammanniti).
The setting is Amsterdam in June 1942. The Frank family includes Anne (Kayla Hunter), her older sister Margot (Kayla McGinnis) and her parents (Frey and LeRae Seay).
The Van Daan family consists of Bob Derby and Nancy Betz playing the married couple and Trent Dundore as their son, Peter, also a teen.
Anne tries to get acquainted with Peter by admiring the cat he has brought with him, but the boy is shy.
Mr. Frank lays out the rules about complete silence during the work day so as not to reveal their presence and endanger Mr. Kraler and Miep, who works for him. Mr. Frank gives Anne a diary for her 13th birthday. He tells her she must never go beyond the locked doors of the apartment, but there are no locks on her imagination. She can escape from reality through reading and writing.
Over the first two months, tempers flare in the cramped quarters. Food rations are limited, and the families are anxious to hear news about people they know. Anne, Margot and Peter try to keep up on their studies.
Arguments arise about Mr. Van Dann's smoking and Anne's outspoken personality.
To make matters worse, Kraler asks them to let another man stay with them. Mr. Dussell, an unmarried man who works as a dentist, is portrayed by Michael France. His stay was expected to be temporary, but it turns out to be much longer.
As the weeks turn to months, Dussell monopolizes the room he and Anne must share. He also is allergic to Peter's cat, so the animal is banished from the apartment.
The relationship between Anne and her mother becomes strained, and Mr. Van Daan resorts to stealing food during the night. When Mrs. Frank catches him, he shows remorse.
Everyone is feeling the stress of isolation and rumors of more turmoil in the city.
A crisis develops as the family is celebrating Hanukkah. There is noise in the office downstairs. Mr. Frank goes down to investigate and finds the door to the street standing open, apparently the work of a thief. Dussell becomes panicked that the intruder will betray them. His instincts are correct, but the occupants must wait more months before anything happens.
In the meantime, Peter and Anne begin "dating" and their relationship makes their situation more bearable. Anne dares to imagine what she will do when they finally leave the hiding place. News about the D-Day invasion gives the families hope, but the liberation does not come in time to save the family.
The drama concludes with Mr. Frank and Miep revisiting the apartment. Kraler joins him and reveals the thief indeed had reported them to the Germans. Mr. Frank says he survived the camp at Auschwitz and returned to Amsterdam, only to learn everyone was dead.
The play closes with Anne's voice: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."
Anne's diary was published in 1947 and later was adapted for the stage.
The crew includes Dinah Adams, stage manager; Jim Cook, set designer; Dalva Church, props; Nancy Derby, costumes; and Seth Innis, sound designer.
The Ritz Players are to give two more performances at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 2 p.m. Oct. 21.
Tickets are $11 for adults and $7 for students. To learn more, visit www.ritztheatre.org or call (419) 448-8544.