Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

‘Anne Frank’ performance to inspire Hope dinner

On Nov. 28, 63 years ago, Anne Frank and her sister Margot were one month into their confinement in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northwestern Germany.

On Nov. 28 of this year, Anne Frank’s emblematic story of courage and resistance to Nazi power will be dramatized before a special audience of University of Denver patrons and Holocaust survivors by actors of the Denver Center Theatre Company. 

The special performance of The Diary of Anne Frank, directed by Paul Barnes, is to add stark impact to the Remembrance & Hope annual dinner — the principal fundraiser of the Holocaust Awareness Institute at DU’s Center for Judaic Studies.

Production of the play was scheduled independent of the dinner, but their convergence has had significant impact on the play’s cast and crew.  

“You feel a special responsibility,” Barnes says. “It’s a true story; these people were real and this actually happened.”

Although the actors are seasoned professionals, Barnes motivated the ensemble with historic fact.

“Reading the diary was not required but many read it — some for the third or fourth time,” Barnes says. “That was where we started.”

The cast watched BBC documentaries on the Nazis and the occupation of Holland and spoke directly with a Holocaust survivor. They also met with Donald Seawell, who in World War II had been instrumental in helping plan D-Day for Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower.

“He was quite wonderful,” Barnes said of Seawell, whose name adorns the Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where the Nov. 28 dinner will be held.

The event is to begin with cocktails at 5 p.m. and a kosher dinner at 5:30. It will include the announcement of a $3 million project to create a permanent Holocaust Memorial on the DU campus and endow a professorship of Holocaust Studies.

The evening also will honor DU Chancellor Robert Coombe for his support of the Holocaust Awareness Institute and recognize board chair Yvonne Englard Zuber for her service.  

The play, which begins at 7:30 p.m., is to be followed by a reception with cast members, who have found the newest adaptation of the original story both “difficult and inspiring.”

“All of us are infused with a sense of the importance of bearing witness,” Barnes says, noting that the adaptation by Wendy Kesselman successfully integrates literary accuracy and lightness with the dark reality of the Anne Frank story. 

“There’s laughter, then the bottom drops out,” Barnes says. “She (Kesselman) gets to the grit and authenticity of being in hiding. She also has brought back a lot of the Jewish faith.” 

Ultimately, though, it is the power of the story and the reality of events that is most compelling, Barnes points out.

As the audience watches the Nov. 28 performance, it will be reminded that on that day 64 years earlier, the Frank family was huddling in its secret annex in Amsterdam, desperately hoping to evade Nazi capture.

Also on that day in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin were meeting in Tehran to schedule the invasion of Europe and plan the end of the war. 
Less than two months after the June 6, 1944 D-Day landing, Nazi police raided the Franks’ annex, arrested those in hiding and sent them to the death camps.

In April 1945, two weeks before British troops could liberate Bergen-Belsen, Anne Frank and her sister died.

She was 15.

“It’s crucial that the story be told,” Barnes says. “It reminds us all that the world isn’t fixed yet.” 

For tickets to the Remembrance and Hope dinner or information on the Holocaust Awareness Institute, contact Amy Berkowitz Caplan at 303-871-3013 or A ticket exchange is available for DCPA theater patrons who already have tickets to The Diary of Anne Frank.

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