Last Friday, I had the opportunity to take my 11-year-old son Charlie to the opening night of “Diary of Anne Frank” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in downtown Indianapolis. Originally, the evening started out as a date night for my husband and I. But Charlie really wanted to go with me and I thought it would be a good story for us to share together.
Going to the theater is a treat in and of itself, but opening night at the IRT is even more special. The tickets provided to us by IRT allowed us to get into the second-floor VIP reception, where we enjoyed beverages and delicious appetizers. Charlie was most impressed by the bowls of M&Ms in the Danner Lounge.
I’ve seen several shows at the IRT and I am always aware of what a great place it is to take in live theater. Cozy, but not undersized, there is not a bad seat in the house. On the night Charlie and I were there, there was, however, a bad place backstage. A leak in the roof caused water to pour into the backstage area and delayed the opening of the show. But Steven Stolen, Managing Director, and Janet Allen, Artistic Director, handled the wet intrusion with humor and charm and kept to that old theatrical adage — “The show must go on!”
I certainly knew the story of Anne Frank and the diary she kept that detailed her family’s two years spent hiding from the Nazis in the hidden annex of her father’s office building in Amsterdam. But I’ve never actually read The Diary of Anne Frank. I didn’t realize that there were actually nine people hiding in the annex. I didn’t understand how heroic were the actions of Miep Gies and Mr. Kraler (in real life named Victor Kugler) who helped the families in hiding by bringing food, books and other necessities.
Charlie most enjoyed seeing Anne as a real person, a young girl who felt always in the shadow of her older sister, who fought with her mother and who adored her father. When Anne is repeatedly told to stay still and be quiet (so the workers in the office below wouldn’t detect them), Charlie leaned over to me and said “She is like me!”
That understanding drove home to Charlie how tragic and evil the holocaust was. Normal, ordinary people — brilliant and professional people — were persecuted based on their religion or ethnicity. I will say that Charlie was fearful of what was to come in the play, as were a few other children his age sitting near us. However, the anticipation was worse than the reality. Even I was surprised at how quiet and non-physically violent it was when the hidden families were discovered.
Because it was opening night, the set was opened for audience members to go up and explore after the show was over. Though he was disappointed he couldn’t climb to the second level of the set, Charlie was excited to be able to go into Anne’s room and thumb through her diary, which actually contained notes and writings as though Anne Frank had written them herself. We spent about 15 minutes wandering the set, checking out the small details, and speaking to several of the set builders about their challenges and solutions.
We had planned to stay in the lobby for the opening night champagne toast with the cast and crew, but given that Charlie is only 11 and that it was quite late due to the delayed start of the show, we left before the toast.
On the ride home and into the next day, Charlie and I talked about what makes someone a hero, the dignity of human beings regardless of skin color or religion, his great-grandfather’s role in the Nuremberg War Trials, and theater as something he might like to do someday. All that great conversation between mother and son, all because of Anne Frank.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre runs through February 24. Click here for show dates and times and ticket information.