‘Diary of Anne Frank’ plays at Krannert

Naomi Mark has never been held up in an annex before, but preparing for the production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” gave her the chance to capture that feeling.

“It did sort of feel like we were trapped in the annex in a sense, which I think was good for the production,” said Mark, senior in FAA, who plays Anne’s sister, Margot. “Just in the play, we’re stuck in this annex and we can’t get out and we know we can’t get out. And I think having that actually going on in a smaller scale (in rehearsal), sort of, helped feed the performances.”

“The Diary of Anne Frank” is the last of four productions that the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts put on for its Summer Studio Theatre.

Running from July 5 to July 21, “The Diary of Anne Frank” tells the story of how two Jewish families, the Frank’s and the van Daan’s, hide in a annex from the Nazi’s during World War II, all told from the perspective of a 13-year-old, Anne Frank.

With only about three weeks to rehearse, the cast had a rigorous schedule, meeting for about six hours, five days a week, culminating in 100 total hours of rehearsal.

The cast is diverse, as each actor plays a character similar to his or her age. They range from all backgrounds, from amateur actors to professional actors to high school and college students.

But for Karen Vaccaro, a professional actress who played Mrs. van Daan, the varied experience of the cast didn’t matter because everyone worked incredibly hard.

“I have to say, this dressing room is a special place,” Vaccaro said. “There’s just this connection and camaraderie. It adds as much as working on the show as actually doing the performance. And I feel a real cohesiveness with the rest of the cast.”

That connection could be due to some of the cast working together before. Vaccaro is good friends with Carolyn Kodes-Atkinson (Mrs. Frank) because they’ve worked together before.

Lincoln Machula (Mr. Frank), was lovers with Kodes-Atkinson’s in the 2011 production of “Betrayal” at the Station Theatre in Urbana. Machula has also already played father to Dominique Allen (Anne Frank), in the production of “The Miracle Worker” at the Parkland Theatre.

Allen, who will be a junior at Urbana High School in the fall, could not be more thrilled to work with such an experienced cast.

“It feels amazing, and I’m so honored,” Allen said. “It’s such a great opportunity for me to learn. I’m working with so many good people, and I’ve learned so much that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.”

Allen and Max Keagle (Peter van Daan), a senior at Central High School in Champaign, were both approached differently by the director, Lisa Dixon.

Since both Allen and Keagle are still in high school and have less experience, Dixon would have sessions with just the two of them.

“Well both of us haven’t done that much before, so we didn’t know how to get our voices out there,” Allen said. “We had trouble getting loud. I know I definitely had struggles taking risks.”

Keagle said he also struggled with finding the right emotion for the play and figuring out who Peter really was. Both of them, including Mark, said it was a great experience just to watch the other actors’ process.

“It’s interesting to work with someone, like Karen for example, she just is the character,” Mark said. “And her process is very different from what I would do because she’s just been working for so long.”

For the older actors though, they were just impressed by the overall talent of the production.

Because the play is all set in one room with eight people, all the actors are around each other for the whole two-hour performance. This helped everyone really get to know each other.

“I think Dominique is amazing,” Vaccaro said. “She worked her butt off and really opened her heart and really did the work. It’s beautiful to see her do this. It’s great to see the innocence. I forget that she is only 16. And Max too, he’s done a great job, too. I think they pull their weight.”

For the younger actors, none of them has done a production for 12 performances. Mark, who usually has six weeks to prepare for productions during the semester that only last around seven performances, is interested to see how the play will progress over the next few weeks.

“That’s going to be really, really challenging I think,” she said.

And since the play runs all month, it gives people time to see the play that Machula says, “if you’re not familiar with it, you need to hear it.”

“I just want to share it,” Vaccaro said. “I want people to get the message of the show, and I want them to hear the words of the playwright and of Anne Frank and of everyone else.”