I read “Number the Stars” in 4thgrade. I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 7thgrade. Though at the time neither of these books impacted me as much as this play did as an adult. Scary, truthful, sad, a story needed and worth telling I attended this play “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Park Square Theatre with my dad. I was excited to see my friend Charles Fraser in the show, however, didn’t really know what I was getting into. I remember reading the play as child and thinking how sad it was. However, it doesn’t really affect you until you are much older and have gained more life experiences to help you put it into perspective especially when seeing what happened with 9/11.
As I sat before the play began I looked at the set and knew it wasn’t going to be a happy play. The set had two main rooms with only a few beds. Many of the people living there shared a bed or slept on the floor. Being a Korean (adoptee), I think sleeping on the floor is just fine, but I can’t imagine doing that in these conditions. They had to take off their shoes and not make any noise during certain hours of the day. No school, no nothing. They didn’t have anything with them as well. If I am cooped up at home for even a day or two, I go stir crazy, let alone being in a house with your parents and four other strangers for days and weeks on end. I can’t imagine what her life must have been like. I admire Anne Frank for writing her story for it is a story worth sharing.
During intermission, I sat with my program and it had a bunch of pictures of Anne Frank of her life before she went into hiding. It choked me up to think about. One of the most moving aspects of this production is where it starts and ends the same way with Mr. Frank reading Anne’s diary as he was the only person to make it out of the camp alive. This was probably the saddest part. It reminded me of how fortunate and blessed we are to live where do today. I think that sometimes there can be so much hatred in our society for various reasons, but if you look at Anne’s life it really gives you perspective of how to live. Like how they say in “Our Town” to live in the moment.
I want to commend the actors for portraying such real character’s night after night and especially as most of their audiences are high school audiences. Sulia Rose Altenberg who plays Anne is especially strong in her role to play such a young character. Overall this play stirs up thought provoking questions, questions of life, and specifically to appreciate life as it is as Emily Webb would say in Our Town. See this play for history, for reality, and for being a story worth telling.
After the show, I had the opportunity to interview, actor and friend, Charles Fraserwho plays Mr. Dussel the dentist who ends up sharing a room with Anne. He gave me some insight into his role that he has played now for eight years.
Tell me about the role of Mr. Dussel.
Dussel is based on Fritz Pfeffer, the dentist who moved into the annex with the Franks and the Van Daans. He and Anne Frank shared a room for almost two years. Anne changed the names of all the people in the annex. She coined Dr. Pfeffer’s pseudonym, “Mr. Dussel,” which translates to “Mr. Nitwit.”
How did you prepare for your role?
I started out with much of my research focused on Anne’s diary, primarily on how Anne describes Mr. Dussel and their relationship. Then, I turned my attention to material provided by Miep Gies and Otto Frank. By all accounts, the relationship between Anne and Mr. Dussel was torturous for both. After that, I put my focus on the text, as there are considerable differences between the real Fritz Pfeffer and the character created by the playwrights, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.
You played this role for eight years. Tell me about the history of doing this show for eight years.
It is a blessing to return to a role, again and again, over several years. It is “experiencing the role” in the truest, textbook sense. I have every opportunity to live moment to moment as the character would without overthinking, overreaching, or overreacting, just reacting and responding appropriately to each task as the character understands his circumstances and surroundings.