In directing The Diary of Anne Frank, two things are always on Christine Norred’s mind.
“We try to stay true to history and present the piece with some integrity, because these were real people,” Norred said by phone Oct. 29.
The Spotlight Theater Players production will present on stage the true, poignant story of the 13-year-old German Jewish girl who kept a diary while she, her family and others hid from the Nazis for two years in sealed-off upper rooms of the annex of her father’s office building in Amsterdam beginning in 1942.
“We’re doing the newer adaptation that was done on Broadway in the ’90s,” Norred said. “I read both (the original dramatization by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and the newer one by Wendy Kesselman) versions, and I liked this one because I felt it was easier to follow, it was smoother, and it felt a little more emotional, a little more personal in the way it was written.”
Norred, an optometrist by day, is marking her directing debut.
She started doing theater in 1998 at Baton Rouge Little Theater, and has also worked with Ascension Community Theatre and the Baton Rouge Gilbert and Sullivan Society.
After stage roles including Clairee in Spotlight’s Steel Magnolias, Norred said she’s enjoying the director’s chair.
“Thankfully for me, practically everyone in our cast has a lot of experience, so it’s been probably relatively easy. I’d say the biggest challenge with this play is that the majority of characters are on stage the entire time. It’s coordinating a lot of people.”
In addition to Anne, her parents and sisters, also in hiding were the Van Daans, a family of three; and a dentist.
Set designer David Miller is creating a very dark, bare set, Norred said.
“It’s one big open room with an attic to one side and Anne’s bedroom on the other side. People think that everybody lived in an attic. It was actually two stories of a building plus an attic. We’re trying to give them (the actors) room to act but also portray the crowded environment that they had to live in for two years.”
The director said she’s been impressed with the devotion of her cast to their roles.
“The actors, they care about their characters. Sometimes it can be draining, when they think about the subject matter that’s involved, and what people went through in their lives,” Norred said. “Every character in the play really suffered. Everyone in the annex died except for one person (Anne’s father).”
“Even the young people in the play have been very respectful of the subject matter, and have really tried hard to portray it with a lot of integrity, and give these characters a voice,” she said.
Clara Bryan was a natural for the role of Anne, Norred said.
“To me, her demeanor and the way she read the lines, embodied Anne Frank the best. She and Margot (played by Miranda Reynolds) have a very good chemistry on stage as sisters.”
Keeping it in the family, Reynolds’ father, Robert Reynolds, is portraying Anne and Margot’s father in the play.
- CAST: Clara Bryan, Anne Frank; Robert Reynolds, Otto Frank; Paula Shreve, Edith Frank; Miranda Reynolds, Margot Frank; Bill Parker, Mr. Van Daan; Mary Pittman, Mrs. Van Daan; Aaron Heltz, Peter Van Daan; Kevin Harger, Mr. Dussel; Lindsey Short, Meip Gies; Joel Sinsin, Mr. Kraler and officer; Landon Fabre, officer.