Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett (1956)

Summary:  Thirteen year-old Anne and her family are hiding in an attic to escape discovery and capture by the Nazis.  They are joined in their confined space by the Van Daan family and a dentist named Dr. Dussel.  Eight people and a cat attempt to survive on stolen food rations while sticking to a strict nocturnal schedule to avoid capture.  Eventually, as it begins to look like the war is ending and they will be liberated, they are all captured and sent to separate concentration camps.

Thoughts:  I wasn't looking forward to reading this play, perhaps because I knew the ending, perhaps because I remember not reading the book when it was assigned circa eighth grade.  Yesterday, I complained about the lack of action in my recent reads and was certain that this play would be the same.  Instead, though the play is confined to an extremely tight area, it is largely dependent on action rather than narrative or relationships between characters.  Each time there is a knock at the door, both the characters and the audience wonder what surprises Miep has in store...or if the families in hiding have finally met their end.  Because we know how the play will end, the repeated visits from Miep create narrative tension that closely mirrors the emotional tension that each additional month in the attic causes.

While the play is obviously called The Diary of Anne Frank, the adaptation from Frank's text tells the story of the time spent in the attic--not always from her perspective.  All of the characters are well-developed and are each given the opportunity to show their multi-faceted personalities--which inevitably change under the stress of circumstance.  Though Anne becomes more important as the play progresses, this play is not full of huge monologues or chunks from the diary as I imagined that it would be.

Additionally, I think that using this play as part of a unit would be extremely beneficial for teachers required to teach Anne Frank's actual diary.  The Goodrich/Hackett adaptation piques interest in individual characters and made me wonder about what else Anne has to say about them in a diary that spans more than two years.

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