Everyday Arts Hero: Julie Ann Nevill

While theatres across the country and the globe are closed due to COVID-19, Park Square is taking an opportunity to share the stories of some of the hardworking and brilliant people who make the art possible. Come along with us to celebrate #EverydayArtsHeroes.

Julie Ann Nevill
Actor playing Mrs Van Dann in The Diary of Anne Frank

Photo of smiling woman- Julie Ann Nevill. She is white with brown eyes and curly strawberry-blonde hair.

2020 marks the 20th year that I have been involved with the production of The Diary of Anne Frank at Park Square. I first joined the show in 2000, and at that time I was playing Miep and was the understudy for Mrs. Van Daan. I played Miep for 1 ½ years, and then moved into the role of Mrs. Van Daan. I have also acted in Ten Little Indians, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Melville Slept Here, and Dracula at Park Square Theatre.

There have been so many funny, crazy, strange things that have happened through the years and many different shows I’ve been a part of. One of the funniest during The Diary of Anne Frank was during a year when the Van Daan’s mattress was actually an air mattress. It had deflated a little throughout the week, so when I was laying on it, Mr. Van Daan sat down and the shift in the air sort of launched me off of the bed. No one really saw it but us, but we found it very funny…we still giggle about it.

The rehearsal process enables we actors to find ways to differentiate between our characters and the Frank family characters. In the script, the Van Daan’s come from a background of money, material things, and the like. Through the many years, we have had a chance to come at the characters from a variety of different angles. Sometimes we focus more on the conflict between people, sometimes we look for more chances to show the love between them. Then we can mesh those ideas together to see what comes of that. Every new thing we try creates a new, fresh experience for us, and the audience.

The best thing about working on The Diary of Anne Frank is having the privilege of keeping this important story out in the forefront. Even today, in our very own country, anti-Semitism is on the rise. False statements about Jewish people, and anti-Semitic tropes are being thrown about by even our leaders in government. White Supremacy groups have been emboldened, and have increased their public presence and their hateful actions. This is a dangerous path that must not be followed, and people need to be made aware of it. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. This is why it is so important to continue this show. And, there are so many messages that apply to our lives.

Scene from The Diary of Anne Frank with the family cathered for the first night of Hanukkah. There is a menorah on the table and they are exchanging gifts.

Scene from 2018 production of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. From left: Julie Ann Nevill, Sulia Altenberg, Leslie Vincent, Michael Paul Levin, Laurie Flanigan Hegge. PC: Petronella J Ytsma.

Often students will ask “what are WE supposed to take away from this? What are WE supposed to do?” I ask them to reflect – how many times do you see fellow students being bullied and singled out because they are different; a different religion, a person of color, an immigrant, a different sexual orientation? In those times, I hope that the story of Anne Frank gives you the courage of people like Miep and Mr. Kraler; the courage to stand up and say “No”. I hope this gives you the courage to step in and say, “This isn’t right. This needs to stop.” Young people are the future. Young people have a voice in how the world can change for the better. You can BE the change you want to see in the world.

More and more I cling to Anne’s words, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”.

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