Nov. 14, 2009

We won’t forget you. Ever!

It’s over.

“Look at our attic. The moonlight coming in.”

I walked into the theater this morning and looked at our Annex – the theater lights highlighting spots of wood on the Annex steps and reflecting off the kettle on our potbelly stove. And a few minutes ago, I walked out on a black stage. The simple, glossy, black stage looked so clean, but it also looked so…dead. I hadn’t realized how accustomed I had become to the Annex – our Annex – until it was gone. It was there every day after school, just waiting for us, waiting for us to come and bring it to life. It really did become my home for the past few weeks. Is it because I’m going off of five hours of sleep that I’m writing about plaques of wood coming to life? But that first rehearsal after put-in was when the show began to really come alive. And what do we have left to show for it? Pieces of wood piled in the back of the shop? A stray sign left in the hallway? Is Anne’s diary really all that remains?

Maybe there isn’t much that’s tangible – my red shoes, which Gaby so generously let me keep, or the diary, which I’m honored to take home – to prove that we really did put on this show. In my current daze of fatigue the past few weeks – really everything since tryouts in the dance studio last June – seem like a dream. But I know that even after the pictures in the lobby are replaced by the winter show, and my Latin diploma is getting dusty on my closet shelf, I will always remember what the 2009 Advanced Acting Company pulled off that November. The Diary of Anne Frank will always be alive in my heart (not to be corny or anything…).

Anne wrote about, “trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be…,” and…after this show, I feel just a little bit closer to being “what I would so like to be.” And I have every one of you to thank for that – Lauren, Kelly, Shelby, Laura, Elena, Sean, Paul, Joe, Isaac, Eric, Mr. Bowen, Mr. Schneider, Gaby…and Mr. Baer. You all believed in me before I myself did. You constantly pushed me, yet were there to support me all the way. I’m honored to have been part of such an amazing ensemble.

Last night, as we gathered on Isaac’s couch (in our matching red shirts :) ), Paul brought up how the last time we were all gathered there was three months ago to watch the Holocaust movies. Yes, I’m a corny person, and I have to say I got a bit tingly thinking about how we’ve come full circle. I do think I was a different person back in August – maybe not noticeably different, even to those who know me best, but…I have learned and grown so much from this show, and I’m having trouble letting it go, believing that it’s all over.

I like what Sean wrote, and I think I’ll close with his quote. This is one of my last posts (may even be the last), but I find it fitting to end with another cast member’s quote, because, well, isn’t that the point of AA? It’s about the group, the ensemble, and..I’m glad we’re able to finish each other’s thoughts.

http://dussel.tumblr.com

Again, thanks to everyone, for the most enjoyable, thoughtful, exciting, saddening, and meaningful time of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Nov. 11, 2009

The sun is shining, the sky a deep blue…

I don’t have much to say, well so much is rushing through my head that I’m not even sure where to start. But after today’s invited dress Mrs. Hamilton,  embraced me, crying, and told me that her husband lived in Holland and his family got out just before the war. And two seventh grade girls asked for my autograph.

Nov. 10, 2009

I still believe, in spite of everything…

I brought this song up in class a while ago, and I so wish I could find it online, because I can’t do it justice in my out-of-key voice. But it’s been in my head, lately, and so I squeezed my brain to remember as much as I could. I think it’s been six years since I last sang this…but somehow this much at least has stuck with me.

Shining stars
And cloudless skies of blue
Through the window crack
I see you
And I long to run
And touch the sun
Dear diary what else can I do


Longing for
The precious air of freedom
Waking and I feel like crying
There’s no place to go
But still I know
The light of morning dawn will come
To me


I still believe
In spite of everything
That people really are
Good at heart
And the skies will be bright
And it will all come right
And the springtime of peace will start


Growing up
And longing for a friend
Hoping that this secret life will end
With words of light
Written in the night
My thoughts and hopes and dreams to you
I send


I still believe
In spite of everything….

?

Nov. 10, 2009

Sometimes I feel…I feel the same

I’m pretty uptight about homework, as most of you can attest to. This may be the first time in my life where I’m not doing work even when I have a spare hour (and trust me, I have some…two tests on Friday and an English essay in case you were wondering) – I mean, I even managed to squeeze out some homework the weekend of my sister’s bat mitzvah. Sometimes I feel like the weight of the show doesn’t hit me until I get in the car, or eat dinner, or try to do some homework. There isn’t really an exact moment where I feel it, but I’ll realize as I’m trying to read for English that I’m not focused, my mind’s somewhere else…my heart’s somewhere else.

I had thought that since this is such a busy time I would be scrambling to get any work done, but…I’m not. I’d even go as far as to say I don’t care (maybe). When I get home after rehearsal each day, I feel…weird. Something’s wrong, something’s amiss. I haven’t cried once during this whole process but I think I want to, because I feel like I’m carrying around a weight to heavy to bear. Ready for another one of my nonsensical metaphors? It’s like tetris – with every run of the show the blocks stack higher. Sometimes a few are removed when we joke around in the greenroom or chat in the costume shop, but the blocks continue to stack up and….I’m getting closer and closer to the top, where there won’t be room for any more blocks.

letstakeitfrommouschi:

My connection to this show has become a life force on its own, without any push from me. I hesitate to write this, because I might sound melodramatic. But my cast—my friends—are the only people who could possibly understand how I’m feeling right now. And I just want to put it down here that every word I write here, every cue I call in the booth, it’s not just for us. It’s for them, too. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I’ve been crying so much recently.

Every day is an emotional roller coaster. Come to class happy. Have my heart ripped out and kicked across the room (like Laura kicked the bread on Monday). Laugh about the run with Baer. Go home somewhere between happy and miserable.

But, even knowing this, I’m not ready for it to be over.

Not yet.

I know my title quote is a bit out of context…what I mean to say is, well, thanks for your post, Shelby – I’m glad someone could articulate the jumble of emotions I’ve been feeling. Like when Anne finishes Peter’s line for him…it’s nice to know someone else understands without having to completely explain yourself…and even nicer to know that it is not just someone, but eleven other wonderful people.

Nov. 10, 2009

The suffering of millions

Mr. Bowen’s comments at the end of today’s run were powerful and I want to remember them, so here they are, as best as I can remember:

“On the one hand, this is a story about a girl who lost her diary. There were other girls, with other diaries, who got to bring their diaries with them. Anne left something for us to remember her by…but we will never get to see those diaries. And there are still Arabic diaries burning in a hole in the ground in Fallujah…”

It sounds so simple – “a girl who lost her diary.” Yet it echoes in my head. Lost. The loss of the diary. The loss of safety, security, fears, worries, secrets, hopes, dreams.

Other diaries. Ripped, buried, burned. All those words, lost forever.

Nov. 10, 2009

We love that you’ve come

I was sitting in front of my locker when Ms. Dorer gave me – well, us – an amazing compliment. She confessed that she never really liked the Diary of Anne Frank – she didn’t relate to the “teen” parts of the diary and only used small excerpts of it when teaching Holocaust memoirs. Anne is opinionated and strong-willed and I’m not surprised that some readers would be turned off by her, especially in the first half of the diary.

Ms. Dorer then told me that she was intrigued by the preview. She’s seen three other productions of the show and so was expecting the usual story (with superb acting, of course, given the members of AA…). But she found herself pleasantly surprised – she began to see the characters in a new light. She complimented the way we brought humor into the show without losing the underlying tension. This made me so thrilled that I had to share it with you all right away. Because I’m so proud of us – we were able to give Ms. Dorer – Ms. Dorer! – a new perspective on the show. And to me, that means more than any “great job yesterday” (not that I don’t like those…). This is such a well-known show, and the fact that our highschool production was able to convey a perspective that three professional productions did not – I’m just, as my Bubbe says, kvelling.

Nov. 9, 2009

Ah, Miep!

A memory from Miep…

“Once I had the feeling that I was disturbing her while she was writing. I went into the Frank’s bedroom and saw her sitting near the window, writing. I thought, uh-oh, I’m disturbing her while she’s busy with her diary. It was a very uncomfortable situation. I tried to decide what to do. Should I walk away or go to her? At that moment she glanced at me, with a look that I’ll never forget. This wasn’t the Anne I knew, that friendly, charming child. She looked at me with anger, rage. Then Anne stood up, slammed her diary shut and glared at me with great condescension. “Yes,” she said, “I’m writing about you, too”. I didn’t know what to say. The only thing I could manage was, “That ought to be interesting”. And I left and went back to the office. I sat down at my desk and I just went to pieces. Fortunately Bep didn’t ask what had happened, which is something that I’m glad about to this very day. Because I couldn’t have talked about it, and I didn’t want to talk about it. I felt so small…”

http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp?pid=242&lid=2

Nov. 8, 2009

I would love to know other people’s thoughts on what they want the audience to take away from the show.

http://dussel.tumblr.com/

I want our audience to ask themselves, “Who are we? Who are we as humans?  How have humans driven each other to their breaking points, fighting over a piece of bread? How could other humans do such things to other humans? Why do people do what they do? Have we done things similar to these people, including the Nazis? Are we all the same? What does remain?” What have we learned from the life of Anne Frank? Otto Frank? Fritz Pfeffer? Peter van Pels? What have we learned from each other as humans?”

It’s a lot to ask, but that’s what I want our show to do. Art can be something to enjoy, but art should also be used to provoke. I want to be challenged when I see a show. I want the people onstage to enlighten me, make me cry, anger me, ask me to question. Once the house lights come up and the applause ends, I want Anne’s story, our story, to stay in the audience’s mind…to inspire and bother them. The audience is smart. I think we often underestimate how intelligent and how valuable an audience is. With a show like ours, with story like this, I want the people who come to see the show…to think.

http://letstakeitfrommouschi.tumblr.com/

Most people think that Anne Frank is a story about the Holocaust, but I’d argue differently. Really, the stage version of Anne Frank’s diary is a concentrated portrayal of human emotion. The Holocaust aspect, of course, is undeniable, but it’s merely a catalyst for the examination of these real people, feeling and loving and—above all—existing. What Anne has to teach us is that life is an experience; and for better or for worse, it’s a gift, one that we should not be so quick to throw away.

http://petronellasfurcoat.tumblr.com/

What do I want to the audience to take away from the play?

That human life is never and should never be wasted, there is always an evident impact.  That one person can influence several million people without that person even knowing.  That we are not acting the play, we are telling a story that has to be told.  That our characters deserve to be recognize for themselves, not ourselves playing them.

I want the audience to be conflicted in their emotions.  Most people already know what happens, but not the intimate details.  They should take away new information about the situation and not just the basic facts.  It’s a moment in history that we are depicting, a moment that our generation has not experienced first hand.  I want us to be able to have the audience feel like they were part of history for a few hours.

Nov. 8, 2009

A teenager badly in need of some good plain fun

Back in…was it September?…Kelly interviewed me for her podcast on the show. The hardest question she asked me was what I wanted people to take away from the show. The question’s been percolating in my mind ever since. Yes, the play is about spreading awareness about the Holocaust and promoting peace, but at a school like Latin, I don’t see this as a main goal of the show – and it will inevitably come across by the nature of the story anyway. So what do I want people to take away? I want people to recognize Anne’s humanity.

Kelly said it wonderfully in her recent posts about Margot :

The general idea in the cast is that Anne was much prettier then Margot. But at the time, this clearly wasn’t the case- we hear opinions to the contrary both from Miep and from Anne. Do we have different standards of beauty? Or do we just want to see Anne, the heroine we all know and love, in the most positive light? It’s a very human instinct, to almost deify those we respect and revere. But I resent that. I want the humanity of these characters to be captured. Not just the good, but the bad. (http://margotfrankaa.wordpress.com)

Anne Frank is such an iconic symbol. She has become so famous – so deified, as Kelly so aptly put it, that along the way I fear her story has also become too simplified, too generalized. I don’t have a deep response to Kelly’s question, I’m not working toward some greater message for the good of humanity. I just want to show people Annelise Sarah Marie Frank. Not just the Anne they expect – the thoughtful, insightful, witty, brilliant teenager who maintained such optimism even when faced with the epitome of human cruelty, but also the Anne they may not know – the bratty know-it-all, the unruly teen, the depressed and lonely Anne, the frightened Anne, the jealous Anne.

I want people to see Anne’s humanness, see her for everything she is – her strengths and her flaws – and I hope, if I pull it off, that they love her. Not that they love me, and my acting (although that would be nice, too), but that I help them see Anne for who she truly was, and that they embrace her perfections and her imperfections. I hope I can bring Anne just a little bit closer to people’s hearts, so that the next time she’s mentioned in an HBO documentary or referenced in a newspaper article, they look beyond the black and white photo from a time and place so different from our own, and think: Hey, I know that girl.

You probably recognize this photo…                            But what about this one?

Nov. 7, 2009

Now I don’t have to be branded

Photo call and then a full run…it’s been a tiring yet exhilarating day. Gaby, our lovely costume manager, sewed the Jewish stars on our outfits today. Wearing an actual star made me realize what it felt like for Jews during the Holocaust. Although I’ve been trying to put myself in the mindset, it wasn’t until the star was actually sewed on my dress that I understood what it feels like to be marked and singled out. As the Frank family gathered in the pit, I looked around at all of us, buried under our thick coats and baggage, all marked with the bright yellow star. What does it feel like, to be defined by four letters on a yellow star, to be judged by everyone you pass, everywhere you go? I used to think that wearing the star was the least painful decree of the Holocaust – it was just a piece of felt, and nothing compared to living in the ghetto, or being banned from school, the park, and library. But I realize how demeaning it must have felt. Hitler’s plan was thought through logically – the first step was to make Jews ashamed of being Jewish.

I (as both Anne and myself) hate Peter’s line about making sure no one knows he’s Jewish ever again. I feel like he’s let the Nazis get to him, he’s giving them exactly what they want. But now I am a bit more sympathetic, because after being singled out and identified every second of the day by a star, it’s understandable that Peter wants to start life anew, where he can feel accepted by society.

The one minute scene when Anne rips off her star is an incredibly important minute. It is an act of defiance. By ripping off their stars, Anne and Peter make it clear that their identities cannot be fit onto a yellow star, and no one else can define them.

Gaby’s star replica

(No matter how many times I flip horizontal it keeps uploading as the mirror image…oh technology…)

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About
Anne Frank's diary is probably the most widely read first-person account of the Holocaust, and her face has become an international symbol. Yet who was Anne Frank, really? In an effort to do her justice in this year's Advanced Acting performance, this blog is an attempt to understand the real Anne Frank.
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