Lorraine Pintal, artistic director of the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, knows that Anne Frank will fill her 846-seat hall at 84 Ste. Catherine St. W. until Feb. 7.
“The motivation was to make Anne’s voice heard on the 70th anniversary of her death and the 75th anniversary of [the start of] World War II. Because her diary is the most read around the world, that makes it the most significant as a testimony of the Shoah,” she says.
Pintal recalls reading the diary as a young teenager and is thrilled to have found a local actor to portray Anne, 24-year-old Mylène St-Sauveur, who has always been equally smitten with the Holocaust heroine. Even the posters for the play show that St-Sauveur bears an uncanny resemblance to Anne, not just in her hairstyle, but in spirit.
Unlike the traditional Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett version adapted by Wendy Kesselman that the Segal Centre mounted in 2007, this play is an adaptation of the diary by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt of France, who won a competition held by the Anne Frank Foundation.
He purchased his own theatre in which to mount the play – there were no other takers because of its large cast of nine – and it went on in 2012 to great success in Paris. This is the play’s North American premiere.
Schmitt, a non-Jew, is a doctor of philosophy who ponders humankind in his scripts for stage and film. Here, he writes from the perspective of postwar survivor Otto Frank and uses the most up-to-date revelations related to the diary and the people in it.
The bereaved father, upon being handed Anne’s journal by Miep Gies, begins to discover the inner life of the daughter he thought he knew. Her serious side that balances the comedic and her insightful thoughts on life and about the adults around her amaze and humble him.
“Otto Frank, in reading the journal, brings Anne to life again,” says Pintal who visited Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, took the entire cast to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre for an emotionally affecting guided tour and made Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s If This is a Man compulsory reading for the actors.
Also different from the American version is the physical rendering of the drama, leaving behind the usual detailed re-creation of the secret annex in favour of a minimalist set.
The main-floor Opekta, Otto Frank’s jam-thickener trading company, where Frank reconnects with his memories in postwar 1945, is open space. So is the area that hid family and friends, where scenes from the past are played out, connected to the business by the famous staircase.
The set is mostly furnished by the audience’s imagination. However, Pintal added another ingredient that makes this production of Anne particularly rooted in the history of its time. “We worked with Turbine Studio to punctuate the play and its scenic transitions with black-and-white archival video footage: the bombardments, the Nazi armies, the cattle cars, the camps,” Pintal says. “For me, it was a way of contextualizing the era and showing what genocide means, especially to younger audience members. Our school matinees are all sold out and there will be a tour of the Quebec [City] region.”
Pintal is hoping to have another Jewish-themed project in the future, in the form of The Golem. “It’s been on my desk for about five years and I have to find the right moment to do it,” she says. Meanwhile, Anne is occupying all her thoughts. She says she admires Otto Frank for his decision not to find Anne’s betrayer.
“I say forgive, yes, but forget, never. We are doing the play so that people don’t forget.
For tickets to the play, which runs two hours without intermission, call
514-866-8668 or go online