So strong has the response been for And Then They Came For Me: Remembering The World Of Anne Frank, that New Jersey's George Street Playhouse has dropped its scheduled April 1997 show, Garage Sale, and taken this touring co-production (with Young Audiences Of NJ) instead. This first-ever commissioned piece, a multi-media work, runs April 19-May 18.
What's special about this new work, by James Still, is that following each performance will be a moderated discussion between Eva Schloss and Ed Silverberg -- two surviving friends of Anne Frank, the young woman who died of typhus in a Nazi concentration camp. The two also appear on videotape in a discussion during the play.
Susan Kerner directs the piece, which was conceived two years ago after Kerner staged George Street's production of The Diary Of Anne Frank. Still was commissioned to write the work, with sound designer Bill Milbrodt and composer Scott Killian to work on the music, and DAK Productions of New Brunswick to create the video. George Street's upcoming production will be partially re-cast but textually remain the same.
When director Kerner was researching the project, she contacted Silverberg, whose family moved to Amsterdam to escape the Nazi advance. unlike Frank and her family, the Silverbergs managed to stay hidden through the end of the war. Silverberg was the last person to see Anne Frank before she went into hiding.
Eva Schloss is the step-daughter of Otto Frank and one of the first people to have read Anne Frank's now-famous Diary. After the liberation of Auschwitz, Eva's mother and Otto grew close and eventually married. "I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Ed and Eva," said Kerner. "[They] put Anne Frank's story in a historical context. People need to realize that Anne's experiences were not the exception but horribly common to an entire generation of Jewish-European children. The opportunity for audience members to have a conversation with these two luminous people is extraordinary."
Anne Frank's story has never been more in demand. A Broadway revival of Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett's The Diary Of Anne Frank is due in 1997, and NY's American Jewish Theatre recently mounted the family oriented, time-travel drama, Anne Frank And Me.
According to George Street Press Manager Leslie Williams, Garage Sale, a solo show for comedian Rob Bartlett, "just isn't ready to go up yet." The George Street season schedule has been shifted to accommodate the change. Lost In Yonkers (Jan. 4-Feb 2) and Sylvia (Feb. 8-March 2) are still in with Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn pushed forward to Mar. 8-April 13.
Now in its 23rd season, George Street Playhouse is a not-for-profit organization and a member of the League of Resident Theatres. For tickets and information about And Then They Came For Me, call (908) 246 7717.
--By David Lefkowitz