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ST. CLAIRE DONAGHY | INDEX-JOURNAL

Actress Sydney Wells, on screen and in foreground, portraying Anne Frank, filmed several monologues for the stage play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” now playing at Abbeville Opera House. Also on stage is Blaine Hicklin, portraying Otto Frank.


ABBEVILLE -- Anne Frank’s diary is more than just musing of a young teenage girl who hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam from 1942 to 1944.

“It is a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit,” according to Michael Genevie, Abbeville Opera House executive director.

That diary has become an important piece of literature, published in many translations, and inspired moving stage and film adaptations.

Abbeville Opera House’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” opened Friday and continues with live performances today and March 24 and 25. Combined with actors on stage are still photography and video and slides.

Helping Genevie with that have been photographer Shawn M. Knox and cast member and freelance editor/producer Blaine Hicklin.

“This is the first time I’ve done this play or seen a production of it,” Genevie said. “This is a newly adapted version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.”

The play details what Anne Frank and seven other people go through to survive while in hiding in a secret annex to an office building in Amsterdam, Holland during World War II. They hide for more than two years, until their location is revealed to the Nazis and they are deported to concentration camps.

Anne’s Frank’s diary is first published in 1947.

“The end of the show is remarkably powerful,” Genevie said. “You come to know the people in this story. It’s a real emotional roller coaster that we take the audience on.”

At one point in the play’s first act, actress Sydney Wells, who plays Anne Frank, says “All we can do is wait for the war to end. The whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.”

Wells, 21, a senior mass communications major at Lander University from Greenwood, said she has had a fascination with Anne Frank’s story since reading her diary in middle school.

“I thought this role would be an interesting challenge,” Wells said. “The play is a good illustration of what is detailed in the diary, without being too lengthy.”

Rick Dettmann, 67, a purchasing agent from Bradley, plays SS Lt. Julius Dettmann, the Nazi officer in charge who receives a tip about people hiding in the secret annex and orders officers to the location to arrest them.

Dettmann, a veteran actor of the AOH stage, said this experience is surreal for him.

“I was completely floored when I started doing research on Anne Frank and learned of this Julius Dettmann, he said. “I feel kind of strange playing this part. I don’t know if there is any relation there between our families.”

Dettmann said his paternal grandfather was from Germany and he has a grandmother from Holland.

“My father is a first-generation American,” Dettmann said. “This one role has sure thrown me for a loop. I have to portray this character as ruthless and vicious. I’m sure people in Holland and Germany and other places had Jewish friends before the war, and then, suddenly, they had to turn on them.”

Blaine Hicklin, 49, of Laurens, who plays Anne’s father, Otto Frank, said the play serves as a reminder that “in the darkest moments, people can find joy, and that a life is a life, no matter how long.”

Hicklin, a freelance film producer and editor, said he first acted on the AOH stage during the late 1980s and recently reconnected with Genevie, who approached him about acting in this show.

Genevie said he has enjoyed mixing theater, film and music for underscoring since he was a graduate student at Florida State University.

“The idea for doing that sort of thing with this play came from the first line in the play that is scripted so that Anne does it as a voice-over,” Genevie said. “Instead of just hearing her voice through speakers, you also see her on a screen.”

Purposefully, Genevie said the “film” clips of Sydney Wells as Anne Frank are intentionally made to appear as though they were filmed in the 1940s.

Genevie decided to also use the projection screen and audio-visual media to incorporate non-copyrighted images and sound clips from the World War II era to bring to light the plight of Jewish persecution in Nazi-occupied countries.

In his director’s notes in the playbill, Genevie said that although the story is an emotional one, “it is a story that deserves to be told and must be told.”

“I hope that my addition of film, video and still photography throughout the play helps to convey the power and message of this play and that you are able to take something important away from this experience,” Genevie writes in his notes.

‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ on stage at Abbeville Opera House

Remaining performances are March 19, 24 and 25.

Reserve tickets by calling the box office at 864-366-2157 or going online: www.theabbevilleoperahouse.com.

Tickets are: $10 for students, $18 for seniors and $20 for adults.