What I learned. . .

This was a great lesson in not knowing too much.  Just as we encourage actors not to play the end of the moment, the scene, or the play – thereby not telegraphing sadness or tragedy before it arrives --  there came a point in the voluminous research of Anne Frank’s story where we simply had to stop and say, “I can’t know this.”  Of course the actors knew the outcome of the story, but the horrors of the Holocaust and the concentration camps where all but Otto Frank perished are so well documented that it made it impossible for the actors to find the moment-to-moment positive action they needed to play in order to keep the production active and hopeful.

Working in the round was a challenge, but it certainly helped establish the claustrophobia of the situation.  I was very shy about asking the actors to remain on stage during intermission, even though to me there was something powerful and resonant about the audience being able to leave the theatre, have a drink, get a bite to eat, use the restroom, while the cast remained in confinement only feet away.  The actors were completely game and assured me that staying on stage was not the “MFA directing project” idea I feared it might seem.

The Diary of Anne Frank

Denver Center Theatre Company

November, 2007

Aya Cash

“DCTC production triumphs with stirring, well-acted staging.”

“Miraculously, Paul Mason Barnes’ wrenchingly performed new staging makes for some pretty great theatre.  It’s fascinating to watch audiences gradually become surrogate members of the Frank family.  When actors freeze, audiences look afraid to breathe.  The slow build of tension grows palpable despite the preordained outcome.  When the Nazis finally arrive, the gasp from the crowd is devastating.  Because there is no escape, Barnes doesn’t even let his actors exit for intermission.  Instead they silently go about their business.  Another fascinating choice is his near-complete abandonment of accents, likely meant to make us consider this family, if not recognizably by American as possibly anyone of any historic era. “

“There is a bevy of warm and wonderful performances.  Aya Cash’s complex portrayal of young Anne is a resonating triumph.”

    John Moore

    The Denver Post

“Visceral.  Powerful new production bolsters Jewish identity, humanity of family. Demonstrates the lasting power of naturalistic, narrative theater. In a marriage between [Wendy] Kesselman’s script and Paul Mason Barnes’ sure direction, this play is visceral, powerful and alive.  Barnes stages the play in the Space Theatre, with a set by Robert Mark Morgan in which beds are made out of chairs and cots and walls are absent.  The result is a home with eight people and no privacy, a pain felt particularly by a young girl in the first throes of adolescent sexuality.”

“The play’s most terrifying moment has no screams, no bells, no whistles.  It’s hard to be truly scared in the suspended reality of a theatre, but Barnes does it several times, most deftly in a moment when time seems to stop.  It seems a fitting tribute to Anne Frank that the most terrifying eventuality is a silent one.”

    Lisa Bornstein

    The Rocky Mountain News

“Each member of director Paul Mason Barnes’ cast brings impressive depth and complexity to the proceedings.”  “. . .  finely drawn production. . .”

"Directed by Paul Mason Barnes, it adds up to a devastating production.  The play is not filled with heroes or heroines, nor (like the original) one-dimensional characters.  These are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

"As it happens when ordinary people are put together in the same room, the room sometimes echoes with laughter, other times arguments.  People show likable traits and those less likable.  There are times for compassion, but also times when fear reveals uglier sides.

"Much of the play's emotional impact comes from how we connect with these characters on stage.  For stretches at a time, we're caught up in the details of their cloistered lives -- Anne's budding romance with Peter Van Daan, the Van Daan's bickering, an evening meal -- and forget that we already know their tragic end.

"And this version delivers an appropriately stark ending. In it, Otto Frank returns to the stage and reports in frank terms what eventually happened to the other seven people.  None but Otto survived the brutal camps.

"In the moment, Hutton finds dignity despite his character's devastation.  His balance between the two is just right.  We don't need to get caught up in his grief.  Rather, the simplicity of the final moments voice the Holocaust's horror."

    Mark Collins

    The Boulder Daily Camera