An impressive, four-tier, practical set for The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank, Southeast High School, Wichita, KS - 1968
The Diary of Anne Frank, Southeast High School, Wichita, KS - 1968

I couldn’t sing or dance, but I sure could cry. Picture it. Wichita, Kansas, 1968.


The curtain rises on an empty stage. It is late afternoon, November 1945. The rooms are dusty, the curtains in rags. Chairs and tables are overturned. The door at the foot of the small stairwell swings open. MR. FRANK comes up the steps into view. He is a gentle, cultured European in his middle years. There is still a trace of a German accent in his speech. 

He stands, looking slowly around, making a supreme effort at self-control. He is weak, ill. His clothes are threadbare. After a second, he drops his rucksack on the couch and moves slowly about. He opens the door to one of the smaller rooms and then abruptly closes it again, turning away. He goes to the window at the back, looking off at the Westertoren as its carillon strikes the hour of six; then, he moves restlessly on.

The Diary of Anne Frank, Southeast High School, Wichita, KS – 1968

From the street below, we hear the sound of a barrel organ and children’s voices at play. There is a many-colored scarf hanging from a nail. MR. FRANK takes it, putting it around his neck. As he starts back for his rucksack, his eye is caught by something lying on the floor. It is a woman’s white glove. He holds it in his hand, and suddenly all of his self-control is gone. He breaks down crying. 

Our drama teacher, Ruth McCormick, cast me as Otto Frank; Jan Chandler Randle played my daughter Anne. The set was a wonderful piece of heavy-duty carpentry, and it provided quite a workout as we used the crawlspace, the backstage up and down stairs, and onstage steps.

No production detail was left to the imagination. The prop list was specific to minutia for every Act and Scene.

(A1; S1 PROPS, pre-show blackout = 33 seconds):
1. Overturned chairs (2)
2. Cushion off couch
3. Knitted scarf on floor, irregular, multiple colors as if made from scraps
4. Diary & papers on back counter
5. Curtains pulled down
6. Lamp overturned
7. Womanʼs white glove on floor
8. Mason jar overturned

And, no detail was more important to our Kansas production—and me—than the scarf I wore in that play.

It was a surprise gift from Jan Chandler to me at the final rehearsal. She knitted it by hand for me—just as Anne Frank had knitted the one for her father decades before.

I didn’t need to know anything about Method Acting to call up tears whenever I looked at it. The scarf, its context, and the horrific history of those years in Eastern Europe did that for me.


UPDATE: 5.29.15
It’s amazing what I found going through a file of photos and clippings that my mom kept. Here’s the entire cast and tech list for the production. I’m blown away by this phrase from the story in the school newspaper, The Stampede, “The story is not fiction…”

Diary of Anne Frank press clipping, Wichita High School Southeast, 1968


Otto Frank:

“Each time our train would stop . . . at a siding, or a crossing . . . we’d all get out and go from group to group . . . Where were you? Were you at Belsen? At Buchenwald? At Mauthausen? Is it possible that you knew my wife? Did you ever see my husband? My son? My daughter? That’s how I found out about my wife’s death . . . of Margot, the Van Daans . . . Dussel. But Anne . . . I still hoped . . . Yesterday I went to Rotterdam. I’d heard of a woman there . . . She’d been in Belsen with Anne . . . I know now.”

He picks up the diary again and turns the pages back to find a certain passage. As he finds it, the stage lights begin to slowly dim as we hear Anne’s Voice—

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Mr. Frank slowly closes the diary.

Otto Frank:

“She puts me to shame.”

The stage goes dark as the Curtain Falls.

By Stephen Brockelman

As a Sr. Writer at T. Rowe Price, I work with a group of the best copywriters around. We belong to the broader creative team within Enterprise Creative, a part of Corporate Marketing Services. _____________________________________________ A long and winding road: My path to T. Rowe Price was more twisted than Fidelity’s green line. With scholarship in hand, I left Kansas at 18 to study theatre in New York. When my soap opera paychecks stopped coming from CBS and started coming from the show’s sponsor, Proctor & Gamble, I discovered the power of advertising and switched careers. Over the years I’ve owned an ad agency in San Francisco; worked for Norman Lear on All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and the rest of his hit shows; and as a member of Directors Guild of America, I directed Desi Arnaz in his last television appearance— we remained friends until his death. In 1988 I began freelancing full time didn’t look back. In January 2012 my rep at Boss Group called and said, “I know you don’t want to commute and writing for the financial industry isn’t high on your wish list, but I have a gig with T. Rowe Price in Owings Mills…” I was a contractor for eight months, drank the corporate Kool-Aid, became a TRP associate that August, and today I find myself smiling more often than not.

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