For the last while I’ve been helping out a professor from Western University run his blog for the Stratford festival and the Shaw festival. It’s been quiet lately so I figure I’d post one of the articles I wrote up here. I’ve yet to receive feedback on it so i figured I’d let you guys have a look at it and see what you all think.
The Diary of Anne Frank compared to Modern pop culture. By Chris Doke
The Diary of Anne Frank is a difficult play to talk about for obvious reasons. It’s the story of Anne Frank a young Jewish girl hiding with her family and neighbors in a small room to hide from the Nazi’s. While hiding Anne Writes frantically in her diary where she express her hopes, fears and daily life. The group in hiding is betrayed and Anne is sent to the concentration Camp Bergen Belsen where she dies from Typhus in February 1945 (The exact date of her death is unknown). Anne’s Father survives the war and is given the diary of his late daughter. The Diary is published fulfilling Anne’s dream of her becoming a writer.
It’s interesting to see how this play compares to other similar works. The Holocaust has been the basis for some of the greatest works of art in the 20th century. When the diary of Anne Frank first appeared onstage in 1955 it won the Tony Award for best play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Steven Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s list” Won the 1993 Academy award for Best picture. The 1997 film “Life is beautiful” won the 1997 academy award for best foreign film. To this day Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” remains the only comic book ever to win the Pulitzer Prize. It’s not just the western world that has written about this event. Legendary Japanese manga (Japanese comics) author Osamu Tezuka wrote about the Holocaust in “Apollo’s Song” and “Messages to Adolf”. The latter won the 1986 Kodansha award (an award for serialized Manga).
How Does Anne Frank compare to these other stories that all revolve around the same event. For starters it’s important to look at the author. By that I’m refereeing to Anne herself. While Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote the play when it first appeared in 1955 and then adapted by Wendy Kesselman in 1997 a majority of the play is based of the writings of Anne in her diary. This means the audience is witnessing these events through Anne’s perspective. We get to view the Holocaust and Nazi Europe through the eyes of a young adolescent girl. A big theme in the play is growing up. Anne writes about trying to understand who she is and what she wants to do, she still struggles with the same problems most adolescents have despite being in a small cramped space in Nazi Europe. She writes about romantic love stories, she writes about her friends, family etc. She’s a normal girl. By contrast all the other Holocaust stories Listed above were written by old men who themselves were never in the Holocaust. Art Spiegelman himself never experienced the Holocaust like his father did neither did Steven Spielberg. Their stories were written years after the event happened. Their stories are written in a much more somber tone. These authors know the huge number of casualties that occurred in the Holocaust and write about it through the cynical eyes of adults. That is not to say their interpretations are bad they’re just a contrast to the more hopeful and light writings of Anne’s. Though there are times in the play when Anne does deal with the harsh reality that she could very well die.
Another big theme of the play is mortality and courage. Anne faces death everyday and is determined to accomplish something with her life. Anne remains hopeful that she will survive the war. Even when Anne was sent to the camps she remained certain that she would survive
When compared to other Holocaust stories we see these themes repeated. Schindler’s list focuses on a little girl. The iconic girl in the red coat was a focal point of the movie. The girl like Anne perishes in the Holocaust representing the death of young innocent girls. Schindler’s list also focuses on the fight to remain hopeful despite the terrible condition. Anne writes about surviving the war and in “Schindler’s list” a couple marries in the labor camps. Similarly “Life is beautiful” also shows the importance of staying hopeful as displayed by the father Guido trying his best to keep his son safe/happy while in the concentration camp. Finally just like how Anne falls in love with Peter despite knowing they may not survive Osamu Tezuka Apollo’s song features the main character Shogo falling in love with the Jewish girl only for the both of them to be killed shortly after. There is no proof any of these stories were influenced by Anne Frank but it is interesting to see how these stories about the holocaust share similar themes of love, courage and hope. Maus of course is the exception. You won’t find any trace of happiness in Spiegelman’s depiction of the holocaust
Today Anne’s story has been an influence to many. American Songwriter Ryan Adams has written a song called “Dear Anne” for his upcoming album. Indie rock band “Neutral Milk Hotel’s song “Holland 1945” was influenced by the writings of Anne as confirmed by member Jeff Mangum. Time included in Anne in their list of most influential people of the 20th century. LIFE magazine included the iconic picture of Anne in their 100 photos that changed the world. And finally on the lighter side Robot Chicken ran a sketch depicting Anne Frank’s life as a teen romantic comedy movie (1:31) starring Hillary Duff (Nazi’s are so uncool).
The Diary of Anne Frank will be playing at Stratford from April 22 – October 10th