Posts Tagged Anne Frank

What If?

Sulia Altenberg (Anne Frank) and Ryan London Levin (Peter Van Daan) in a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

What if an English teacher had her class read The Diary of Anne Frank?

What if she’d asked permission from the principal to do an experiential lesson with her students?

What if that lesson involved deeming half the class to be superior to the other half?

What if the superior half got to reinforce their superiority through constant criticism and punishment?

What if the students skulked into class the following day wondering what would happen to them next?

Laurie Flanigan Hegge (Mrs. Frank), Robert-Bruce Brake (Mr. Van Daan) and Charles Fraser (Mr. Dussel) in a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

What if the teacher explained that they’d been part of a social experiment?

What if the “inferior” students got angry and upset?

What if they were mad that they wouldn’t get their turns to switch roles to become the tormentors?

What if there had only been one student of color in the room, and she was Japanese American?

What if this story is true?


Different approaches to teaching The Diary of Anne Frank can yield surprising, but no less valuable, insights for both teachers and students alike. Park Square Theatre itself supports teachers with comprehensive study guides for its student matinees that are loaded with contextual information, suggested classroom activities and numerous resources. Our study guides are lauded for their grade-appropriateness and usability, as they are created by educators for educators. They are also living documents, continually being re-evaluated and updated for relevancy, as well as inspiring tools for deep engagement and inquiry. 

Access the study guide for The Diary of Anne Frank here.

Just as Anne Frank’s diary has been a staple in American school curriculum for decades, the play has been one of Park Square Theatre’s longest running productions viewed by thousands of young audience members for decades. This season, don’t miss its limited performances for general audiences on April 19, 22, 26 and 28 (tickets and information here). 



Would You Save Anne Frank?

Park Square is partnering with World Without Genocide and the Germanic American Institute to host a lecture on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Join us Wednesday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m. Learn More.

Would you Save Anne Frank?

Guest Writer: Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director, World Without Genocide.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and the others hiding in that tiny attic in Amsterdam were discovered by police.  Someone had turned them in because they were Jews.

Four days later they were all taken to Westerbork detention camp, where they worked at hard labor and lived in the punishment block.  On September 2 they were sent to Auschwitz.

They had already been stripped of their citizenship.  The Dutch people had been told that all Jews were to be hated, despised, denied all rights, and, ultimately, denied even the right to life itself.

On August 25, 2017, people in Texas were trying to get to safe ground out of the path of Hurricane Harvey.  The Texas Border Patrol set up immigration checkpoints throughout the southeast part of the state, and motorists at every checkpoint were asked if they are U.S. citizens.

Undocumented immigrants couldn’t escape from the storm because they feared detention at the checkpoints and then deportation because of their immigration status.

Texas boarder patrol checkpoint

“By keeping checkpoints open, the Border Patrol is putting undocumented people and mixed-status families at risk out of fear of deportation,” Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “This is a disgusting move from the Border Patrol that breaks with past practices. The Border Patrol should never keep checkpoints open during any natural disasters in the United States. Everyone, no matter the color of their skin or background, is worth saving.”

What would Anne Frank think? What would she have written in her diary?

The Germans and the Dutch decided in 1944 that Anne Frank was not worth saving.  Our administration decided in 2017 that undocumented immigrants are not worth saving.

We all think that every one of us would have stood up to save Anne Frank and the others in that Secret Annex – even though they weren’t citizens any more.  Today, we must stand up to protect the people who aren’t citizens in our country.

The moment is here to stand up, speak out, and to say that everyone is worth saving.  Everyone.  Contact your elected officials, in the name of Anne Frank.  Do it now.

Dr. Ellen Kennedy is the Executive Director of World Without Genocide, a human rights organization at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. 

Sulia Rose Returns

Photo by Emmet Kowler

Photo by Emmet Kowler

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.

October 18, 1942, diary entry: This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time. Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood. But at present, I'm afraid, I usually look quite different. (Photo from Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary - A Photographic Remembrance by Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven for the Anne Frank House)

October 18, 1942, diary entry: This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time. Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood. But at present, I’m afraid, I usually look quite different.
(Photo from Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary – A Photographic Remembrance by Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven for the Anne Frank House)



“Anne Frank” Actress Recounts Time in Amsterdam

By Sulia Altenberg

For the last nine months I have spent a majority of my weekdays in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The first six of those were spent living in an actual apartment with twelve other people in a West Amsterdam neighborhood, riding my bike to the final four classes of my undergrad. For the last three months, however, I have been living each day in an Amsterdam attic right here in Minnesota, at Park Square, in The Diary of Anne Frank.

The day after I was given a role of a lifetime, I couldn’t sit in my dingy room with its horrible Internet in West Amsterdam. I had long wanted to go into the “Hollandsche Schouwberg,” as it’s exterior walls are clad with Hebrew that I didn’t understand. I thought, “how lovely, a theater building commemorating Dutch Jews.”

Anne Frank House

 The beautiful Jewish theater that once stood  there has now become the Dutch Holocaust  Memorial, with a list of the every murdered  Jewish Dutch family name, a museum, and a  large courtyard with tulips, all to commemorate the 107,000 Jews that were persecuted and killed by the Nazi party in the area where the theater seats and stage were. On the list of family names I found my own last name, Altenberg, then I found the Franks, the Van Pels and the Pfeiffers. It will never ever be fair that I, a Jewish woman, got to go home after visiting that theater, to America, to perform the story on stage, portraying the Holocaust’s most famous victim. It will never be fair that the people who hold my same last name were dragged to this theater, and would never see their home again.

This year, it was decided that the diary entries which are written into the script as voice-overs, would instead be performed live onstage. It is so wonderful when the kids out there get excited, you can hear them and feel them when they sympathize with Mrs. Frank as Anne pushes her away, when they scream and clap for Anne and Peter’s first kiss, and when they cheer for the news of the D-Day invasion. Keeping it fresh for those kids everyday, however, is the hardest part, but I get to use all those memories of Amsterdam and all those emotions I have attached to those memories to get me to be as genuine as possible.

Anne Frank

Anne makes the choice to be brave, she and I adjust our backpack straps and we stand tall and we are okay to go face the Nazis. In many ways I live my life in the gap of the dreams that were never fulfilled by Anne. She too wanted to be an actress, “a famous dancer or singer, or something wonderful!” That is how you cope with your Jewish survivor’s guilt; you live your life the way you want to.

The cool thing is, I get to make Anne’s dreams come true too. I get to help her go on living after her death, even if it just is for 40 performances.


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