Two girls share role of Anne Frank

Thursday, October 29, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Performing Arts in Children's Education rehearses "The Diary of Anne Frank" at Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts on Tuesday. Abby Kempf, left, and Matt Howard are on the rehearsing stage. Kempf plays the role of Anne Frank.

COLUMBIA — "The Diary of Anne Frank" is a staple of most children’s reading. Few children, however, have the chance to portray the young Jewish girl, who famously lived with her family in hiding during most of World War II .  

Performing Arts in Children's Education has given two Columbia girls that chance. Thursday night is the opening of its production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

If you go

What: "The Diary of Anne Frank" by Columbia's Performing Arts in Children's Education

When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth St.

Tickets:  $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12, and $7 for students with an ID at the Missouri Theatre.

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After almost two years in hiding from the Nazis, Frank and the others were discovered and sent to concentration camps, where the entire family, except for Frank's father, died.

After her death, the contents of Frank's diary were made known, revealing the Franks' life in hiding. The book eventually became a popular play.

PACE Director Meg Phillips took care to make sure that her actors were fully prepared for this part.

Every week, her actors had to come in with facts about the time period. Often, they found information about their real-life characters to help them connect.

“It has really helped them, I think, have a better handle on their characters,” Phillips said.

Abby Kempf agrees.

Kempf, along with Chloe White,  is one of two girls who perform the role of Anne Frank. Both girls are 11 years old and attend Columbia Catholic School.

Kempf said they researched “things that went on in World War II, like what happened at the concentration camps. It wasn’t always just about our characters, it was about everything else that was going on during this time.”

Each actor was given a three-page character analysis sheet, something PACE directors often hand out to actors for dramatic pieces. Each sheet contained a list of questions for the actors. Some were about characteristics such as age, while others focused on emotional qualities.

“Everybody got a three-page sheet that just had questions about their character, like ‘what did your character do for fun?,’ ‘how does your character feel about other characters?’” Phillips said.

The script for the play has been updated to create a more balanced portrayal of Frank’s experience. Unlike the first one, this production highlights the ups and downs of her life.

"It just shows both sides of it," Phillips said. "It shows Anne’s zest for life and her positive attitude, but then it also includes excerpts from her diary, where she wasn’t feeling that positive."

 The two girls have been helping each other with lines and prepare for the role. Kempf has been in four productions with PACE, and “The Diary of Anne Frank” is White’s ninth.

“The thing I like about acting in a play is that everybody in the cast is sort of always like a family,” White said.

“Especially with such a small cast,” Kempf said.


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