2017-08-10 / Arts & Entertainment News


Remaining relevant today, students tell Anne Frank’s tale in show at Maltz

Skye Alyssa Friedman as Anne Frank Skye Alyssa Friedman as Anne Frank A COLLECTION OF TALENTED, LOCAL middle and high school students is currently mounting a stage adaptation of the iconic book “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre under the supervision of professional mentors.

Known as the Youth Artists’ Chair, this annual project — offered free to qualifying area students — aligns handpicked kids with individual theater staff members for one-onone guidance throughout the creation process of the play, according to Julie

Rowe, the theater’s director of education.

“We’re here to help them learn and educate them as much as we can,” she said.

The Youth Artists’ Chair launched in 2011 and has presented the plays “Rhinoceros,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “The Crucible,” “Hamlet,” “The Laramie Project” and “The Good Times are Killing Me.”

Ms. Rowe said “The Diary of Anne Frank” is a relevant play 62 years after it debuted on Broadway, mainly because of the hatred that still exists in the world today.

“We feel like Anne’s story and her history need to be told more than ever,” she said. “We also thought it would be a good project, because it’s a young person’s story. So having this group of young artists working on it would be exciting and rewarding in a very unique way.”

It’s a process that has been months in the making.

“The application process begins in February,” Ms. Rowe said. “Then students are required to submit a letter of intent and some recommendations. Then they go through an interview process and candidates are selected to fulfill each department.”

Those departments include virtually every area of a professional production’s creative team, including director, lighting designer, producer, marketing director, costume designer, stage crew, props master and assistant, production stage manager, sound designer and audio assistant, scenic designer, dramaturg and wardrobe.

Ms. Rowe said kids are matched with the department that resonates most with their own interests.

She said having Jupiter residents Lauren Thomas, 16, and Katelyn Smallwood, 16, as dramaturg and assistant dramaturg has afforded this production the benefits of research that enhance everyone’s view of the play’s place in history.

“They’ve brought information to rehearsals,” she said. “We’ve had guest speakers and even took a trip to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. We’re using a teaching trunk from the museum and of course making great use of Anne Frank’s story itself to present this play in the best way we possibly can.”

“The Diary of Anne Frank” tells the true story about the lives of eight people hiding from the Nazis in an attic. Based on the diary entries of a young teen, this play captures the claustrophobic realities of their daily existence — their fears, hopes, laughter and grief.

Jupiter resident Skye Alyssa Friedman, 15, plays Anne Frank. Ms. Friedman is a veteran student performer schooled in the Maltz Jupiter’s education programs and said she looks forward to bringing this iconic role to life.

“I want to portray Anne as accurately and realistically as I can and be truthful to her,” she said. “I think because this is a true story, I want to do her justice as a person. I’m doing that through research, rehearsal and scene work, collaborating with my cast mates and really getting into her story.”

Director Ashley Banker, 16, confirmed this is her first experience at taking the helm of a play and said her biggest challenge is in effectively communicating what she wants to a wide variety of creative colleagues.

“One kind of directing for one person may not work as well for another,” she said. “It’s all about learning how to be a leader for a lot of different people.”

Ms. Banker, also of Jupiter, said this is her first time taking part in the Youth Artists’ Chair.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” she said. “Each of us is mentoring under an adult and I’ve learned so much from mine. It’s so incredibly hands on, thought provoking and strenuous — but in a good way. I’ve been stretched to heights that I never thought I could attain. We have a quote from Anne Frank that’s become our motto: ‘How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,’ and I think the Youth Artists’ Chair program has helped me learn that we can change the world through theater.”

Ms. Rowe said she is very grateful to have such a group of creative kids devoted to bring Anne Frank’s story to the stage.

“They’re a dedicated group, because this is a full summer project,” Ms. Rowe said. “It requires a great deal of time and commitment. I think the students are gaining artistic skills as well as skills in time management. They’re such a joyful group and they want nothing more than to be here as often as they can. That is inspiring to me.” ¦

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