TWIN FALLS — You probably read “The Diary of Anne Frank” as a student, and now there’s a chance to see an on-stage production here in Twin Falls.
The Random Acts of Theatre Players are performing Thursday through Sunday at the College of Southern Idaho’s Fine Arts Center.
The production, directed by retired CSI theater professor Tony Mannen, coincides with the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is a true story of a Jewish girl among eight people, including her family members, who hid for more than two years in a secret annex in Amsterdam during the Holocaust.
Kimberly Middle School eighth-grader Abbi Harmon, 14, plays Anne Frank.
“I knew a little bit about her story and the time period,” Abbi said during a rehearsal last week, but she did more research about the other people Anne hid with.
He heard about the production from her father, Jud Harmon, who’s also in the cast and is technical director for the RAT Players.
Abbi said she got involved because of how significant the topic is, and she knew it would be an impactful and memorable show. And “of course, everyone wants to have the starring role.”
Shoshone High School sophomore Abby Nordstrom, 16, plays Margot Frank, Anne’s older sister. Abby’s parents, Karl and Julie Nordstrom, play Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, their name according to Anne’s diary.
It’s a little nerve-wracking working with older actors, Abby said, since it’s her first time performing in a play outside of school.
Margot is down-to-Earth, quiet and has a good relationship with her mother, Abby said. “Her and Anne kind of have opposite personalities.”
Canyon Ridge High School junior Adam Victor, 17, plays the role of Peter Van Daan.
Mannen came into his school theater class to recruit a student to audition for the role. It’s the first time Adam has been in a production outside of school.
“I’ve had to relearn the process of doing a show with a new group,” he said.
He described Peter as shy, short-tempered and smart. “It’s hard for him to get open with people,” he said.
Kelley Ramirez, who plays Edith Frank, played the same role about 30 years ago as a student at CSI.
The experience is different now. She knows what it means to be a mother, she said, and has many more life experiences.
Karl Nordstrom was a CSI theater student about 23 years ago and Mannen was his professor. They’ve stayed in touch over the years and now, Karl is theater teacher at Wood River High School.
It has been many years since he has been an actor. “On a professional basis, it was time to get back on stage,” he said, and he wanted to do what he asks of his theater students.
Plus, it was an opportunity to be in a show with his wife and daughter.
Karl said the cast is lovely and he has enjoyed working with students from across the Magic Valley.
For the audience, “they’re going to see a powerful story,” he said. A story like this, he added, is always relevant and focuses on the human spirit.
Julie Nordstrom, who plays Mrs. Van Daan, said the character she plays is a fun, energetic, loving, social person. She’s bored and struggles a lot with being in hiding — a very different experience than her previously affluent lifestyle.
Like her husband, it’s the first time in many years Julie has been an actor. “The director role is much easier,” she said.
Julie is the kindergarten through 12th grade drama teacher for the Shoshone School District, a position created about three years ago after she approached the school board and superintendent with the proposal. Previously, she was a second-grade teacher.
“This show is such as tremendous story,” Julie said. “I’m so honored to be able to tell it.”
Anne Frank’s famous line in her diary about seeing the good in people remains relevant now, Julie said. It’s a reminder that “we’re a lot more alike than different.”