A Personal Analysis of the Performance of The Diary of Anne Frank
I had the wonderful opportunity to watch the Diary of Anne Frank on the last weekend of its production. This play, I can safely say, was one of the most riveting experiences; from beginning to end, the performance kept the audience and myself on the edge. The title, as many people are familiar with, refers to the diary Anne Frank had written in during the time in which the two families lived in an attic for more than a year. The Diary would later come to serve as a symbol of hope for many Jews, and simultaneously illustrating to many the grave effects of the Holocaust. The play is set in the time of Nazi- Germany occupation and the severe persecution of Jewish families like the Franks. Through the use of scenic units, acting choices, and costume design, this dramatic play communicates the meaning of uncertainty and the human condition/family that the Franks and many Jewish people faced.
Conceivably, the most illustrative aspect of what the play communicated was through the set design. The audience seating was structured in a way that surrounded the stage one hundred-eighty degrees(thrust stage); at the same time, the stage was leveled with the seats, which conveyed a feeling to the audience that they were also “technically in the attic”. It became the most apparent when the play reached tense situations that I, and I’m sure the audience, felt the urge to verbally speak out and voice opinions/thoughts to the characters as if we were also attic residents. There were also no walls in the set design, which showed to the audience what each character would do in his/her alone time. This was particularly important in regards to Anne, who at night “revealed” to the audience just how scared she was and her homesickness. It is also at this point that excerpts in bright lighting from her diary are projected right above Peter’s room and spoken in her voice. This scenic unit provides to the audience a couple of things: she hides her feelings from her family (only at night do these occur), she has feelings for Peter, and lastly it gives viewers a chance to step in her shoes, rather her mind. Her thoughts convey a sense of overpowering fear she has about her family’s predicament. Additionally, there was one object that clearly gave a sense of the collective feelings—the window. The window was far out on the second floor in Peter’s bedroom. The meaning of the window can be interpreted firstly as a symbol of hope, that outside the attic there is still a fulfilling life to live once all the evil has subsided. At the same time, it represents uneasiness because no one knows just how long the occupation will last. It also didn’t appear to be illustrative of sunlight; rather, the light that seeped through was purely white and appeared artificial. If one closely read, one would see that this artificial light alludes to a false sense of hope in that the family, especially Anne cannot accept the fact they might never live a normal life again. Lastly, every time the door, which leads outside, is opened there is nothing but darkness, further emphasizing the unknown that troubles Anne more so than the others. Collectively, the deliberate placement of the audience and the stage as well as its components highlight the uncertainty and anguish Anne and the others dealt with. Overall, providing a detailed image through how most Jewish families and minorities lived at the time.
Aside from scenic units, acting choices influence meaning through the characters themselves. One aspect seen is in the way how quickly Anne speaks her lines; this method is an allusion to represent the uncertainty of how much time the families have to spend with each other. Anne perceives that she has little time to express all that she wants and compensates by speaking as much as she can, as quickly as she can. In addition, all the characters voice their lines loudly and one could decipher that the cause for this is an unconscious a plea for help. They don’t realize but the vocalization is due to thought that maybe no one can hear us, no one will save us. The characters’ gestures, intention, and believability also convey this play’s meaning. Throughout the play, Anne becomes increasingly infatuated with Peter. This along with the humorous tone presents a temporary solution the characters engage in to mitigate the uneasiness. The characters do as much as they can to keep the occupation off their minds, they strive to live a normal life irrespective of the melancholy environment. This is notably seen when the families celebrate Hanukah together and Anne brings a gift for everyone. Anne in particular expresses her kindness and curiosity to all the members in a means to set a good atmosphere. With the gestures and intentions of love, the families try their best to prevent turning on themselves and each other, as this is what the Nazis did to many families alike. The human condition at the time emphasizes the need for a strong-knit family as uncertainty loomed over.
The last production choice that contributes to the meaning of this play is the costume design. The only character to wear bright colors was Anne, and this in turn contributed to her ecstatic and vibrant attitude. This brightness was contrasted with the dull colors the other characters wore. Emphasis was placed on Anne’s mood in that she would not succumb to the bleak atmosphere of the attic. The bright orange sweater she wore translates to a livelihood that was needed to stray from depression. There was one other character that wore distinct clothing to represent meaning. Mr. Frank, throughout the play always wore thick heavy clothing, particularly layered suiting. He had slacks, a coat and an overcoat usually in brown or dark gray. This represented the man in charge, the grounds control, and the regulator who kept everyone stable, if you may. His authoritative standing and eagerness to ease tensions allowed for the smooth flow of dialogue and relationships, a lot of which Anne reflected upon. Lastly, the contrasting colors and Mr. Frank’s actions of mitigation and reasoning helped counter their ill-condition, but did not in fact balance the uncertainty.
Overall, this play represents a vivid visual of the events that took place regarding the two families in the attic as well as convey the feelings other Jewish and minority families felt at that time. It provided an atmosphere that no matter what happens, we’re all in this as a family, as one. Thematically, this play also emphasizes that things don’t always work out as intended; and as history and this play exemplify, many families suffered tremendously as they were separated from one another, killed, or psychologically traumatized. Overall, the production choices of set design/units, costume and acting choices reflect the meaning of uncertainty and the importance of family to overcome the human condition.
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