Westview stages Holocaust drama

Anne Frank and Me has powerful lessons for the modern day teen

Nicole (Alysha Lebrun) comforts her sister Liz-Bette (Sherisse Cross) while their mother Renee (Aphrodite Koseos) looks on in a scene from the Westview secondary production Anne Frank and Me.

Nicole (Alysha Lebrun) comforts her sister Liz-Bette (Sherisse Cross) while their mother Renee (Aphrodite Koseos) looks on in a scene from the Westview secondary production Anne Frank and Me.

As a boogie belts from a radio, Bradley A. West directs two young thespians in a dance.The girls lock hands in a jive as West meticulously plots their positions and instructs them to smile.Directing, the Grade 12 student says, is his forte.  But trying to recreate the gloom cast by the Holocaust in a bustling theatre at Westview secondary has required much preparations – the casts have watched documentaries about the massacre of six million Jews, read Anne Frank’s diary and delved deep into their characters.Despite its serious content, West doesn’t regret his choice of play –  Anne Frank and Me. It’s one of the most intriguing plays he’s read in a while.“There’s a lot of pressure on student productions to do something funny. But I have a flair for drama and the tragic,” says West, who also directed last year’s production of 12 Angry Jurors.“Anne Frank has a very definite message about holocaust denial, but it does it in a very fun way, so it’s relatable to a modern generation.”Written by Cherie Bennett, Anne Frank and Me directly confronts ignorance about the Holocaust. ‘’What difference does it make?’’ one of its characters asks.  ‘’It’s ancient history.’’The play begins in a town that could be anywhere in America, a place where teenage girls are rehearsing a dance, browsing the web and worrying about boys. Nicole Burns, who comes from a family of Holocaust deniers, finds herself tasked with reading the Diary of Anne Frank.But after a knock on the head, Nicole finds herself part of a Jewish family in occupied France during the Second World War and soon sharing a ride in a cattle train to Auschwitz with Anne Frank.Until they were cast in Anne Frank and Me, Katy Deeley and Alysha Lebrun never read The Diary of Anne Frank. The book was an eye opener. “When you read Anne Frank’s diary it’s like a window into the past,” says Lebrun who plays Nicole.“Anne’s become like a friend to me. Her personality is like every teenage girl. She worries about the same things that we do. I’d say about 70 per cent of my diary is full of boys.”Performing the play has also brought history home to the students. The horrors of 1940s Europe don’t seem so far away anymore. It’s made the girls contemplate just why people stood by and watched the carnage.“I think people were scared to speak out,” says Deeley. “You don’t believe something so horrific can happen.”“There’s a reason you have to educate yourself,” adds Lebrun. “So stuff like that can never happen again.” • Anne Frank and Me opened at Westview Secondary School on Tuesday and plays until Friday, March 4.Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $7 for adults. Westview is located at 20905 Wicklund Avenue in Maple Ridge.To view more photos of Anne Frank and Me, visit the photo gallery