A one in six million voice

“The Diary of Anne Frank,” now playing at the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford, is a powerful production. Last Saturday night’s performance, by a brilliant ensemble cast, left the audience in stunned silence until the characters had left the stage — then they rose to give an enthusiastic standing ovation.
I met with Director Susan Aversa-Orrego; Lisa-Marie Werfel, who plays Anne; and Stage Manager Joshua Martin at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland to discuss the impact of the play and the legacy of the story.
EH: Why is this play exceptionally popular year after year?
LMW: Because, when she’s writing the diary, Anne is between 13 and 15; it’s easily relatable for anyone, especially for young people. Something else that makes this story still relevant is that her words are so filled with hope and resilience. She is in one of the darkest situations imaginable, and she still finds light and happiness in small things that can give us joy through the darkness.
I think she is a good voice for the six million people killed, humanizing that number to make us realize the number of people was not just a number, but real living people. We have to learn from history, and as the present reflects history, it’s really important. SAO: She was very articulate for a very young girl; you realize the incredible waste of talent and energy. She is one of the millions that perished. So if you multiply that incredible loss to the world, it becomes overwhelming. These are not characters an author wrote, these are people who really lived.
EH: How does the story relate to our political climate?                   LMW: It’s a very timely piece. It’s important to remember how these things start. Because it’s over 75 years ago, people tend to think it just (boom) happened. It started small — with words of hate. It started with a dictator who was full of hatred — supported by people who shared his beliefs. There were a lot of people, in that time, that didn’t support that. There was a resistance all over Europe.
SAO: There are some similarities that one wonders (if there weren’t more checks and balances) would our government start going down the darker rabbit hole faster?
With the political climate these days — when you watch the happenings in Charlottesville — and we have Neo-Nazi’s marching in the streets of America — to watch that unfolding in front of our eyes: Yes, it can happen, so we have to be very careful not to forget the lessons of history.
JM: It’s timeless. We always need that constant reminder: Whenever we fall off track, that’s what happens, and if we don’t stop and realize where we’re at, and what the consequence of our actions are, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.
Now, all over the world, people are oppressed by political leaders. This piece will always hold relevance because there are always those people who need everyone else to be aware of what’s happening and to stand up for them. That’s what we’re doing now, we’re fighting against it. By keeping these stories and these people alive, we’re trying to lead the way for everyone else.
SAO: We want people to feel the power of it, so that they can do whatever they can to make sure that things like this can’t happen again.
LMW: Paying attention, recognizing oppression, and bringing awareness to it is really important. Awareness and recognition are some of the beginning steps to change.

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