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For the week of May 16 through May 22, 2001

The element of witnessing

Express Staff Writer

To put it in perspective, the famous diarist and Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, had she survived would be my motherís age, and several years my fatherís junior, both of whom are very much with us and going strong.

The tragic Anne Frank was only 15 when she died at Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp. But she, fortunately for the generations who followed, lives on in her diary, which her father Otto Frank published after the war. And she survives for new audiences through the play And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank by James Still.

Directed by Company of Foolís artistic director, Rusty Wilson, this moving play will be presented at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey featuring Wood River High School students. It runs May 18, 19 and 25, 26, at 8 p.m., as well as several scheduled matinees for valley students.

The production marks the end of the first year of the Blaine County School Districtís Theater Academy.

The play is an unusual presentation in that it offers a multi-media viewpoint of the small, limited, and persecuted world inflicted upon the Franks and two other families associated with them in Amsterdam, before and during World War II.

Two surviving members of these families were the inspiration for the play. Ed Silverberg was Anneís first boyfriend, known from her diary as "Hello."

Eva Geiringer-Schloss, who wrote Eva's Story: A Survivor's Tale by the Step-Sister of Anne Frank, was even more closely aligned with Anne. They were the same age, were refugees from Germany and, in 1942, both eventually were forced to go into hiding with their families. The Geirgingers also were captured and sent to concentration camps, where the father and brother Heinz died.

Eva and her mother survived Auschwitz. Her mother then married Otto Frank in 1953, and Eva became Anneís posthumous step-sister.

As part of the multi-media aspect of the play, there is newsreel footage of concentration camps and videotaped interviews with Schloss and Silverberg, who recount their Holocaust experiences as actors depict the stories onstage. Itís as if the audience is seeing Eva and Ed's memories made flesh.

"Eva and Ed are treated like characters we interact with [the video images]," said Kathleen Craig, who plays Anne Frank.

Not only is Eva Schloss, now 72, present in the video but she will be on hand in person, for talks with the audience following each performance. She has lived in London since the late 1950s, and in the past few years has appeared in this country many times to recount her experiences and answer questions.

For many children this is their first and unforgettable introduction to the horror that was the Holocaust.

The play opens in 1938 and follows the family as they intermingle, go into hiding and then are arrested.

"Itís not just the Holocaust where millions of people died," said Sharon Barto, who plays Eva. "It shows that, in all the hell, there was love and hope."

At times, the actors simply watch the videos from the "magic carpet," a metal stage that juts into the proscenium. "There is a challenge to act with the video," said Aurora Hull-Mullins, who appears as Mutti, Evaís mother.

Eric Hamlin plays Ed Silverberg, Dan Moore plays Pappy Geirginger, Chris Stice appears as Heinz, and Mackenzie Harbaugh plays a Hitler youth.

Jon Dykstra helped design and build the set, and is the stage manager for the production.

"It was a good fit," said Rusty Wilson, who discovered the play incidentally while he was traveling, and immediately set in motion obtaining the rights and developing the production.

"This is a story that should always be told," he said.

The Theatre Academy is pleased to present this play, which showcases their efforts this year, but mostly itís an opportunity to depict a piece of history.

"Witnessing is very important," said Barto.


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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.