The Diary of Anne Frank is a story I have been familiar with since early childhood. In 2002 I had the opportunity to study abroad in Europe and was able to tour the Anne Frank House and Museum in Amsterdam. I remember being surprised by how homey and livable, though small, the Secret Annex was; not the cramped, dirty attic I had imagined.
When the Artistic Director of Burning Coal Theatre first approached me with the opportunity to design this production, I felt like the stars had aligned. It is a welcome experience when a designer is called upon to work on a play and a topic with which she is not only familiar, but is emotionally and intellectually drawn.
My approach to design is always rooted in reality…or rather history. I prefer the classics, period plays, and works that allow me to explore other places and times. The Diary of Anne Frank was a thrilling exercise in all the things I love: historical relevance, intense research, first hand written accounts, and decades of imagery chronicling this story. My goal was to use all of this information at my disposal to create a representation that was true to the original, but not an exact replica of the space.
There was, however, a very unique challenge with which I was faced when designing this set. The Artistic Director wanted to transform the stage so that the acting took place on the balcony level, therefore creating a feeling of claustrophobia (both physically and emotionally) for the audience. He wanted everyone to feel as if they were in the attic along with the Franks and Van Danns.
After a series of conversations (you know, that design process…I will spare you the elaboration), we came up with a very exciting and intimate space in which the actors and audience could interact. The design is different from anything I have ever done, in the way that myself and the other designers have created an entire environment for the world of the play. The audience gets to literally pass through the bookcase and up the hidden stairs where they step into the Secret Annex and the stage on which the play will take place. I am really proud of the final product and hope the production photos provided here will give even a glimpse into what we achieved. Photos are available here with more to be added after the production closes on April 27. Thanks for reading!