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Lexi Jones-Guillemette. Courtesy photo.




See The Diary of Anne Frank

Where: Derry Opera House, 29 W. Broadway, Derry
When: Friday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2 p.m.
Admission: Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $10 for youth 17 and younger
Contact: 669-7469, majestictheatre.net




Serious roles
Majestic teens grapple with The Diary of Anne Frank

01/22/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



Want to get kids enthused about theater? Give them a say in what they produce.

If The Majestic Academy of Dramatic Arts teen board is any indication, they like making these decisions, and they’re looking for something other than the cookie-cutter plays traditionally offered to 12- to 18-year-olds. 
“Everyone’s doing musicals, so it’s nice for kids who might not want to do musicals,” Majestic Theatre Artistic Director Rob Dionne said during an interview at the Elm Street studio in Manchester last week. “They suggested Anne Frank.” 
The youth company performs it at the Derry Opera House Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25.
The dramatization by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett first appeared on Broadway in 1955 and is based on The Diary of Anne Frank (also called The Diary of a Young Girl). It’s a real book of writings kept by young teen Anne Frank while hiding in an attic with her family — her father Otto, mother Edith and sister Margo — during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Also in the attic was another family; in the play, they’re called Mr. and Mrs. van Daan and their son, Peter van Daan. 
“Everybody knows the story of Anne Frank. We tell it over and over again,” said play director Jasmine Roth during an interview at Cafe la Reine last week. “For some, it’s like, ‘Why keep telling it?’ But I think it’s so important to keep educated about the horrors of the past. I think the story does that in a great way because it’s still hopeful, and it’s still a beautiful story even though it’s tragic.”
This version is an updated adaptation, taken from a newer, uncensored edition of the diary.
“It’s not the diary we all read in middle school,” Roth said. “It has more rawness to it. There are scenes where Anne is talking about her sexuality, and Anne talking about the horrors of her fears and nightmares. It’s just a lot more vulnerable.”
But to balance it out, there are more light moments too. 
“The lightness is lighter and the darkness is darker,” Roth said. “I think it’s got a lot of love and hope in it, which is great, and shows that despite difficulty, we as human beings find ways to cope, no matter how horrible our lives are. I think it becomes a more well-rounded story because of that.”
The play was suggested by 15-year-old Mathieu Dubois, who’s pursuing theater and music at The Granite State Arts Academy in Derry. He’d been looking to perform in another serious role since the company’s The Laramie Project last year, an experience he now calls “life-changing.” He’s playing Peter, and he thinks the anti-hate message in both Laramie and Anne Frank is relevant today.
“I like that we’re portraying a bigger and more meaningful message. When you’re performing true stories, that makes it more difficult, but it also makes you want to try harder and want to get it right,” Dubois said during a Monday evening rehearsal interview. 
The seriousness also drew in Roth, who studied theater at Union College in New York and performed as Margot Frank in a Manchester Central rendition her freshman year. It was her first serious role and a pivotal point in her life.
“After being in Anne Frank in high school is when I realized I wanted to be a serious actor,” Roth said. “I was moved by the ability art has to tap into a big issue and then create and inspire other people to do the same. … I think realizing that these were real people was a big deal for me as an actor. … And I could connect with the character in a way I had never really thought about in acting before.”
Lexi Jones-Guillemette, a 12-year-old student from St. Joseph Regional Junior High School, was surprised at how fast she related to her character, Anne Frank.
“I always pictured Anne as, during the Holocaust, really serious. But once you read the script, she’s just like a normal girl. She had crushes. She was sad a lot of the time, but most of the time, she was bubbly and energetic and always found the positive in everyone,” Jones-Guillemette said. 
Roth said she’s pleased with how the kids have handled the emotional parts of the play. 
“One of my biggest worries of directing a show with young people was: Would they be able to grapple with the depth of it? The intensity of it? The seriousness of it? Would they be able to go there emotionally? There are some really serious, tough, hard monologues, and I’ve really been blown away with how mature they are and how willing they are to just dive into it,” Roth said. 
They’ve come to realize that though the period is during World War II, the themes are timeless.
“Yesterday, the last half hour of rehearsal, we just sat and talked about what the play meant to us and why it was so important we were doing it,” Roth said. “They connected it to their own lives, the real social injustices going on now. … Even though the Holocaust is over, bad things still happen to good people, and there are still injustices in the world and causes to be fighting for, and that’s why, for them, it’s important to keep telling this story.” 
 
As seen in the January 22, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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