Study Guide

The Diary of Anne Frank (play) Introduction

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The Diary of Anne Frank (play) Introduction

We know you already know about Anne Frank. She's on the top ten list of people most used as a research paper topic. Remember that biography report in fifth grade? Either you spent a few hours Googling Anne Frank, or somebody in your class did and you got to listen to their awkward, "embarrassed to be presenting in front of the class" presentation.

Most students choose to research Anne because of her amazing story. Otto Frank and his family were living in Amsterdam when the Germans invaded Holland in 1942. During the Holocaust, Jews were stripped of their rights, persecuted, and sent by the thousands to concentration camps to do hard labor. Most of the prisoners were murdered outright, or died of disease and atrocious living conditions. Being Jewish himself, and afraid of meeting the same fate as his friends and neighbors, Otto Frank decided to move himself, his wife, and his two daughters—Margot and Anne—into a secret hiding place in some small attic rooms above his business offices. He helped four other close family friends by allowing them space in the hideout as well.

During her family's time in the Annex, Anne kept a diary of what daily life was like. Though the group was eventually discovered, arrested, and sent to concentration camps, a friend of Otto's kept the diary safe. After the war, Anne's father, the only person in the hideout to survive the camps, returned to his family's hiding place and was given the diary. He published it in 1947, and in 1952 an edition called Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was released in English. If you want more deets check out our page at Shmoop HQ and get the lowdown.

We could go on and on about Anne Frank and her history, but we'd rather ditch the spotlight and Anne's celebrity status, and instead look more deeply into her as a person. You see, Anne's a lot more than just a Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis during World War II. Perhaps the people who got this the most were a married couple who wrote musicals and comedies, Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich Hackett. In the late 1940s, the Hacketts flew to Amsterdam to interview Otto Frank and to see the Secret Annex where the Frank family had been in hiding. The couple instantly began writing a drama that would take them eight years to complete.

The finished play was based on Anne's diary, and the drama The Diary of Anne Frank debuted in 1955 at the Cort Theater on Broadway. It was a huge success, running for 717 performances and winning a Pulitzer Prize, and later a Tony Award. In 1956 the play debuted in Germany and Holland, but closed in the U.S. in 1957. An off-Broadway production continued traveling the U.S.

In 1997, The Diary of Anne Frank was adapted and revised by Wendy Kesselman, and premiered in Boston at the Colonial Theater. Later that year it opened on Broadway with a young Natalie Portman playing Anne. This production was nominated for a Tony Award for best revival of a play, and is the version most people today are familiar with.

While Anne's diary continues to be a source of inspiration and a historical treasure, the play gives us even more. Anne is still the central figure, but we are able to view the other characters and see them come to life as well. The relationships, family differences, and emotional rollercoasters they face let us become a part of history that the diary doesn't offer. As an audience, we're treated to a three-dimensional view not just of Anne Frank, but of her world and the people with whom she shared it.

What is The Diary of Anne Frank (play) About and Why Should I Care?

Maybe you've already heard of Anne Frank. Maybe you've even read her diary. It's not surprising; she is the most famous teenager of all time, after all. (Hilary Duff's ain't got nothin' on our Anne.) So what can one more play add to the mix? And why read it if you can just read her diary?

As soon as you crack the Playbill you'll understand. The play version of Anne's diary is more of an in-your-face look at her life in hiding. The raw emotion is out there on the stage, where the actors try to show you what it might really have been like crammed in a tiny attic for over two years. The pain and frustration get ridiculously real.

And, instead of getting inside Anne's head, we are able to see all the characters at a glance—their good and bad sides. Through it all, Anne continues to believe, and we in turn, as her audience, start to believe as well. And belief is a powerful thing. It makes people do inexcusably evil things, but it can also create exquisite goodness. Young people have the power to make good on their beliefs and to become amazing adults. And that's why The Diary of Anne Frank is literature at its best. Maybe, like Anne Frank, you can change the world for the better.

We want to know, what would you have done?

The Diary of Anne Frank gives us the chance to ask this amazingly important question. Through the play, not only do we get to sneak a peek into the lives of some seriously interesting kids, but you can compare and contrast yourself in the process. Would you have been up to, hiding from the Nazis in an attic for a few years? Would you have been swayed by propaganda and joined the German army? Would you have become a resistance fighter in the French underground?

All you have to do is think about it—after you read the play, that is.

The Diary of Anne Frank (play) Resources


The Diary of Anne Frank Playbill
No, that's not Queen Amidala, it's Natalie Portman playing Anne. Check out the official Playbill of the 1997 revival of the Hacketts' drama.

The Anne Frank Center USA
Check out this website, dedicated from the heart of the USA to the heart of Anne Frank.

The Sapling Project
Outside Anne's only window was a giant chestnut tree, which she mentioned numerous times in her diary. The tree contracted a fatal disease, but several saplings were propagated before its death. Read about how the rush to save Anne's sacred tree was commissioned by the United States and other nations.

The Jewish Virtual Library
Need a more "faithful" spin on Anne Frank? Check out the Jewish virtual library and its take on Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and other facts and info on Judaism.

Movie or TV Productions

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
Albert and Frances Goodrich Hackett's play turned into a movie in 1959. It stars Millie Perkins and Shelley Winters.

Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001)
The Holocaust's greatest diarist comes to TV in mini-series format. Starring Ben Kingsley and Hannah Taylor Gordon, it's perfect for the TV or Anne Frank enthusiast in you.

The Diary of Anne Frank (2010)
Airing on PBS's Masterpiece, the film was released on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010 and stars Ellie Kendrick as Anne.

Articles and Interviews

"Anne Frank as a Writer"
This article interviews Francine Prose, a biographer of Anne Frank who made significant discoveries about Anne Frank, her writing, and her author's craft.

Anne Frank vs. The Censors
An interesting article about how Anne Frank's diary continues to be banned in certain schools in the United States.

Bringing Anne Frank Home—to Germany
Anne Frank's cousin is her last remaining relative, and he's donating a whole bunch of items. Check out what's lost and found in this Newsweek article.


Anne Frank (The Whole Story)
We don't know if it's really the whole story, but this excerpt from the 2001 TV mini-series is worth checking out. Oh, and it's free on YouTube.

Anne Frank, the Mini-Bio
Grab a short video on Anne Frank from your fave— You know they'll deliver a ton of good information in a few kilobytes. Just in time for you to microwave a hot pocket.

Natalie Portman is Anne Frank
Here's an interview on the Today show with Natalie Portman about how she got to play Anne Frank on Broadway.


Anne Frank's Life in Photos
Need some visualization techniques to take in all that is Anne Frank? Look no further than this slideshow of our favorite heroine.

Natalie Portman as Anne
Check out this still image from Natalie Portman's 1997 portrayal of Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.

Millie Perkins as Anne
We're not sure who we like better to play our Anneke, Millie or Natalie. We'll let you decide.

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