Each year, Park Square Theatre presents The Diary of Anne Frank on its Proscenium Stage as one of our most popular Education matinees. Students from 7th to 12th grades witness life in hiding for the Franks in Amsterdam, Holland, until their discovery by the Nazis and subsequent transport to the concentration and death camps. What makes the play particularly poignant for our young audiences is that Anne was a real girl with hopes and dreams just like them.
This season, Sulia Rose Altenberg returns to once again play Anne Frank; she is also the youngest and the first Jewish actor to play her on our stage. On the day when Sulia received the lead role last season, she was still studying abroad in West Amsterdam and felt compelled to visit the Hollansche Schouwberg, the site of a beautiful Jewish theater building that became the Dutch Holocaust Memorial. There she read from a list the names of the Jewish Dutch people killed by the Nazi party: the Franks, the Van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer who’d hidden with the Franks, the Altenbergs, . . . .
Sulia’s connection to the Holocaust definitely helps her identify with Anne but also motivates her to give the most compelling performances possible. She feels a responsibility to both carry on Anne’s legacy as well as to personally and professionally reach for the stars, given the privileges of a blessed life. She notes that “if Anne had been free, then given her personality, she may have very well become an actor or performer” like her.
In her second round as Anne Frank with many returning cast members, Sulia relished going in “knowing what we’re doing this year so able to look at the scenes even more in depth.” This season, she wishes to portray Anne as a maturer 13-year-old with more self-awareness and stronger sense of purpose. She herself has changed within the past year, with stronger boundaries and more assertiveness.
Though Sulia has been acting since she was 11, attended high school at both St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and South High School and became a Park Square Theatre Ambassador in 2012-13, she actually majored in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature rather than Theatre Arts at the University of Minnesota. She did, however, keep acting for local theatre companies, such as Theatre Unbound, Illusion Theater and Frank Theatre, amongst others.
When not at Park Square, Sulia works for GTC Dramatic Dialogues, an organization that gives presentations and facilitates frank discussions at colleges throughout the nation on issues of racism, sexism, trans- and homophobia, sexual assault and substance abuse. It’s yet another way for Sulia to help make the world a better place.