Play tells Anne Frank's haunting story

Christians risked their lives to save their Jewish friends.
YOUNGSTOWN -- "The Secret Annexe" has been added to the literature of the Holocaust.
The play helps tells the story of Anne Frank by focusing on the Christians who helped hide her and her family and other Jews in Amsterdam during World War II.
The play, written and directed by J.E. Ballantyne Jr. of Austintown, premiered Thursday at the Oakland Center for the Arts.
"Annexe" is based on "Anne Frank Remembered," by Miep Gies (pronounced Meep Hees), an Austrian who was the secretary for Frank's father, Otto, and co-author Alison Leslie Gold.
It was Gies who found Anne's diary after the Frank family and others hidden above her father's business were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Only survivor: Otto was the only survivor of the eight people in the annex. Gies turned the red plaid-covered diary -- which Anne dubbed "Kitty" -- over to Otto, who had it published. It's the most highly-published book in the world after the Bible, according to Eva Schloss of London, England. She is Anne's stepsister and spoke at the opening.
The multi-media production of "Annex" hit home in several ways.
Grim reminder: The invasion of Holland was illustrated with real film of German soldiers on the attack, a reminder that the dramatization is a true story.
Underscoring the drama was original music written for the production by Dr. Robert Rollin, a professor at Youngstown State University.
Elysia Shutrump plays Anne and not only resembles the diarist but performs with a vibrancy that matches Anne's spirit. Lesley Gent did well portraying Gies' fears and strength in providing food for her hidden friends.
And while Ballantyne said much of the dialogue is ficticious, it does closely follow "Anne Frank Remembered." Still, there are a few quotes from Anne's diary that are used as dialogue, a move that will appeal to those familiar with the story.
An example: For example, in one chilling scene, Gies and Anne innocently chat about Anne's interest in movie stars and boys.
"Sometimes I think that I will never get to enjoy all the things I want to do," Anne says in the play.
Otto's wife, Edith, died at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945. Anne and her older sister Margot were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they died of typhus, also in 1945. Margot was 19, and Anne was 15.
XTickets are available for both evening shows of "The Secret Annexe" and morning shows for youths. Call (330) 799-6176.

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