Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anne Frank: The Courage of Everyday Living

Thursday night, audiences at the Fox Cities P.A.C. are in for a treat with Barter Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank and a rare opportunity to see one of America’s finest regional theaters sharing their craft on tour. With a long, interesting history, Barter Theatre has grown from humble beginnings to become a theater of national acclaim. 

During the Great Depression, Barter Theatre opened its doors in Abingdon, Virginia, proclaiming “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” The price of admission was 40 cents or the equivalent amount of vegetables, dairy products and livestock. Since then, Barter has created a legacy of amazing theater with actors such as Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal and Ernest Borgnine spending time on Barter’s stage.

Today Barter Theatre is led by artistic director Richard Rose (a St. Norbert College graduate) that has been involved with more than 135 productions during his tenure at Barter Theatre. In an introduction he penned below, it's clear The Diary of Anne Frank has a special place in his heart. 

A Look Within… The Diary of Anne Frank
by Richard Rose, Director of The Diary of Anne Frank

We take our daily lives for granted. We are frequently told, “Live life like every day is your last.” But the truth is, to live each day like it is your last is impossible. Life is about ordinary existence. You cannot sustain a life of the extraordinary over along period of time. We never know when our last breath will be taken – no matter what our situation. We never know exactly when the moment will occur. When you are 15, and your life seems completely ahead of you, you cannot even conceive of the notion that you may never breath again. 

The beauty of the story of Anne Frank is that she left behind in her diary not the fear or the mundane, but the everyday thoughts, dreams and ordinary existence of an adolescent girl growing up in extremely difficult conditions while struggling with those things every adolescent experiences. Yet, Anne’s life is far from ordinary; it is courageous. 

Courage is, generally, defined as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Further definitions include such descriptions as “a spirit also suggesting a quality of temperament enabling one to hold one’s own or keep up one’s morale when opposed or threatened, as in ‘her spirit was unbroken by failure’; resolution stressing firm determination to achieve one’s ends; tenacity adding to resolution implications of stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat.” All of these seem highly applicable to Anne Frank. She, no doubt, led a courageous existence, particularly in those years of hiding from July 6, 1942 until her capture on August 4, 1944, and through to her death in March of 1945.

Although Anne Frank did nothing singularly heroic, she is courageous. And it is her living of a courageous life for which she is remembered and admired. 

Her story of daily existence serves to remind us all - then, now and through the ages – of the injustice of hatred. Of course, Anne is a reminder of the horrible Holocaust suffered by the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi regime, but she is also a symbol of so much more than that. Wherever there is persecution at the hands of another, Anne Frank’s story serves to remind us that the innocent, who are only trying to live their ordinary lives courageously, are being stripped of their most fundamental rights. 

Perhaps, someday, Anne’s story will make us all think about the courage of those lives before they are destroyed and help us put an end to the hatred of other races, ethnic groups, religious groups or simply of others who are different from us. 

Everyone has a right to live a courageous life. No one should be allowed to put an end to that life. A note: In 1999, Time magazine named Anne Frank among the icons of the 20th century on their list, “The Most Important People of the Century,” stating: “With a diary kept in a secret attic, she braved the Nazis and lent a searing voice to the fight for human dignity.”

Live a courageous life.

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