The cast of The Diary of Anne Frank performing to the audience in the round
The cast of The Diary of Anne Frank performing to the audience in the round
Courtesy of Liana Farah

From Page to Stage

A look into NVOT Golden Arts production of The Diary Of Anne Frank

From Wednesday, November 15 to Sunday, November 19, the curtain rose on The Diary Of Anne Frank and audiences were able to step through the hushed corridors of time and find themselves in World War II. The heart-wrenching story of the Frank family moved seamlessly from page to stage.  

This year’s production, unlike previous years’, is more of a somber one. “I think we all at the end of the first read-through broke down in tears when we realized that the characters that almost everybody was playing on stage did not survive the Holocaust. And that was an emotional moment for all of us,” director Susan Van Buskirk said. 

The show is formatted differently than other recent shows held in the NVOT auditorium. This year’s show is performed “in the round,” with the audience seated on three sides of the stage to make it an immersive experience–for the audience to feel like they are in the annex with the Frank family.

The cast and crew have been working since September 27 to get the show to where it is now. A big part of the rehearsal process was the cast educating themselves with all the content in the show, and even going to further extents to learn about the history. Van Buskirk made sure that the actors were journaling their thoughts and emotions along with the history of the character. “We spent more time journaling this time and really reflecting on the story we were telling,” Van Buskirk said. Each night, actors went home and journaled and did research on their characters to make the show as factual as possible.

Because of that work, each person in the show knew that when they got on stage, they would portray them to the best of their abilities. Cast member Caroline Mendes, who plays Anne Frank, thinks that “this is a story that needs to be heard, I want to do it justice. With all of the hate in the world, it is disheartening”.

Company members say they have never done a show so emotionally challenging in their time at NVOT. Junior Dylan Kirch, playing Otto Frank, said, “Especially the last part of the play. It’s not easy to be in. And it’s just tough to be in that situation. Especially the last monologue that I have. It’s just tough to say. It just hasn’t. It hasn’t been easy.”

Though there are few Jewish people in the cast, this show is meaningful to every single cast member. One cast member who is Jewish, Gia Brockman, said, “it’s important to represent that part of my family and I also just think it’s important to share the story. I just don’t think people know enough.” Through the vintage costumes, elaborate set, and heartfelt scenes, Jewish culture was represented on many fronts throughout the show.

Despite the play’s heavy subject, stage manager Amanda Haenelt adds, “Even though it is an emotional play, the process of putting it together has been amazing. It takes a toll on you working on it, but I feel that it is worth it when you are able to portray that message correctly.”

Van Buskirk wanted audiences to see the world through Anne’s eyes when she wrote, “I still believe in, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart” in her diary. She wanted to focus on tuning the hate in the world to hope. The company’s hard work and effort was displayed through five sold out shows over the course of the week of November 15th.

Cast and crew members made that vision happen. Haenelt said, “With everything going on in the world today, there’s a lot of hate in the world, and we just want our message to be to love one another, to take care of each other. You never know what someone’s going through. So don’t be mean. Don’t be uncool, like for no reason. Just love each other.”


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  • “I didn’t really know what to go into and expected looking into it. Like I didn’t know if we were going to be in the round. I didn’t know how that was gonna work. I didn’t know what character I would even have. But I just knew that I wanted to work on it.” — Dylan Kirch

  • “It is always a privilege to work with my fellow peers, because everyone is so talented and all these talents come together to form something great.” —Amanda Haenelt

  • “With this show, what I picked was really thinking about how we address the idea that there’s so much hate in the world of all kinds, that people just seem to be divided themselves off into camps and hate the other side. And there’s not enough dialogue going on, and that was really where I was coming from, having no idea what was going to go on in the world in the last couple of months.” —Susan Van Buskirk

  • “I think even if this play can reach a small community like Old Tappan or our surrounding towns, I think that can make a difference.” — Caroline Mendes

  • “A lot of people don’t know enough about the history of Anne Frank. But I think we’ve been able to educate people.” — Gia Brockman

  • “We wanted to do the story justice to the memory of Anne and the Franks, and to the many other families like them and people like them all around the world who have found themselves in hiding, and we wanted to make sure that we told the story clearly and that we made sure that people understood these were ordinary people just like us, who all they wanted to do was to live their life and observe their faith.” — Susan Van Buskirk

  • “I just think that this is a story that needs to be heard, especially with now what’s happening and with hate crimes, as VB always saying, it’s at an all-time high, I think I want to also do it justice and I want people to be aware.” —Caroline Mendes

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