Seattle Children's Theatre
“The Diary of Anne Frank,” on stage now at Seattle Children's Theatre, is based on the real-life reflections of Anne Frank that were found by her father, Otto Frank, after her murder in a Nazi death camp. It is the true story of eight people living in hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland, as seen through the eyes of 13-year-old Anne Frank.
Forced to leave their homes, all of their possessions, their loved ones and their communities behind, Anne Frank and her family live in hiding in an attic. It's a desperate, last-ditch effort to escape the Nazi death camps.
The stage play is based on Anne's written account, published as “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.” In her writings, Anne doesn’t hold back in describing her frustrations with her mother, her sister and the Van Daans, the family hiding them.
On stage, there is room for more complexity. As in her written account, Anne’s relationships with her mother and her sister have difficult moments, and her budding romance with Peter (the Van Daans' teenage son) is just as thrilling. In Anne’s firsthand account, her innocence shields young readers from the gravity of her circumstances. The play illuminates the thoughts and feelings of each of the attic’s residents, giving the audience a window into the extreme duress they were under, each doing their best to cope with the grief and anxiety of losing everything and everyone they love.
Young audiences will likely relate to Anne’s reflections while still having the opportunity to get a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of other supporting characters’ struggles.
The bottom line
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is an ambitious play for any theater to stage; more so for a children’s theater, given its audience. There are no set changes for the entire two-and-a-quarter-hour-long production, and eight cast members must share the stage for the entire length of the play. Yet the principal cast of “Diary” carried the show from beginning to end, and I found myself captivated the entire time.
Other creative choices throughout the show, including the set and the sound (without giving too much away) also made the show quite moving. I stole glances at my two daughters, ages 13 and 11, during the performance, and saw how intently they watched the production. I even spotted more than a few tears at some of the most moving moments.
Parents should know
I felt like I held my breath for the entire length of the play, not just because I knew how this devastating, real-life story ended, but because every detail of the performance so deeply humanized the experience of living constantly on edge. With so much at risk, the families had to spend their days in silence, making as little noise as possible. This included limited bathroom breaks and only absolutely necessary physical movements and conversations.
At night, when workers exit the office building in which the Franks are hiding, the family is free to move, talk, use the bathroom and eat. When we heard sounds of sirens in the distance, we saw the startled expressions of cast members. News came from visitors about friends going “missing” in the night; speeches of Hitler echoed overhead; radio broadcasts about progress in the war had the characters tip-toeing in socks around the small attic, careful not to make the slightest sound. These touches all served to keep the audience in a constant state of vigilance, just as we know these real-life families were.
All in all, this play doesn’t depict much terror or violence on stage — the more horrifying aspects of Anne’s story are told by Otto, when he returns to the attic after the war as the only surviving member of the Frank family. Still, the subject matter is very intense and could be too upsetting for younger children. For anxious kids, it may help to discuss the plot before the show, referencing the synopsis in the program beforehand to prepare them for the difficult and abrupt ending.
If you go...
When: “The Diary of Anne Frank” plays through May 19 with multiple show times each week. (A sensory-friendly performance is scheduled for April 28; an ASL and audio-described performance is planned for May 11.)
Where: Seattle Children's Theatre is located at 201 Thomas St., Seattle, on the west side of Seattle Center.
Cost: Tickets are $35–$45. Rush tickets are half-price one hour before the show, based on availability. Buy tickets online or at the box office.
Run time: The show runs approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission.
Age recommendation: SCT recommends the show for age 9 and older.
Tips for parents:
Parking: Try street parking or one of the surface lots in the neighborhood. The theater is most easily accessed from the west side of Seattle Center, between KeyArena and the Pacific Science Center.
Ready to explore more about the Holocaust? Plan a visit to Seattle's excellent Holocaust Center for Humanity.