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Diary of Anne Frank a powerful story for Flowertown Players

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I first saw Olivia Gainey as one of the dancers in “A Chorus Line” at Flowertown Players last month and found her sparkling energy to be like actress Goldie Hawn so it will be interesting to see her portrayal of Anne Frank.

“The Diary of Anne Frank” — newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman and directed by veteran director Josh Bates (“The Crucible”) — runs Sept. 27 to Oct. 6.

As the show merges arts with community and acceptance, I interviewed Olivia and Executive Director Courtney Bates, and the partnering organizations.

Morgan McCaskill Bailey is from The Anne Frank Partnership with USC’s College of Education, which is bringing Anne’s story to life in an international exhibition, “Let Me Be Myself,” in Flowertown’s Studio space.

It is self-guided, but tour guides are available on Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. Samantha Krantz is with the Charleston Jewish Federation, which will have Holocaust survivors during talk-back sessions after the 3 p.m. matinee performances on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. For more information, go to:

Regan: Olivia, when did you get into acting?

Gainey: Ever since I was little, I have always loved performing, constantly trying out for school plays and making up my own songs. I was taking a new dance class every week and loved getting to entertain and bring enjoyment to people. I remember watching the movie Swing Time with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and knowing that’s the kind of career I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t until middle school when I really started getting into plays.

R: Was it difficult for you to switch from a bubby dancer in A Chorus Line to playing Anne Frank?

G: It was definitely very difficult for me to fully grasp what it means to portray and how to act out a real-life character instead of a fictional one such as my character “Judy” in A Chorus Line, which came very naturally to me. Yet, in Anne Frank, everything is so real and I am portraying a brilliant young girl who had to go through many difficult things I have not had to experience. My favorite role so far has to be Anne Frank. It has given me a new outlook on life and I wake up more grateful each day. It is such an honor to get to shed a light on some of the things those families and the Jewish community had to go through, and I hope the audience takes away a lot from the show.

R: Courtney, in this time we live in, what do you want the public to take away from this real-life story?

Bates: What is the true benefit of polarization? It hinders cultural cross pollution, scientific and technical advancement, and establishes hate as a core belief. I want audiences to witness Anne’s story in the hopes that her unfortunately short life inspires a new generation of acceptance and love for those different than themselves.

R: Samantha, what does this story mean to you? Given we are 74 years after the Holocaust, is it known about how many remaining Holocaust survivors there are still living?

Krantz: My job at the Charleston Jewish Federation is working as the REMEMBER Program Associate. The REMEMBER Program dedicates its time and resources to ensure bridges are made between educators, students, the community, and Holocaust professionals. The Diary of Anne Frank story is a daily reminder and inspiration to us to continue our work with schools and the next generation so that stories such as Anne Frank’s are not forgotten. Children can grasp onto the story of Anne Frank because she is relatable to them. As she walks us through her diary, she teaches valuable lessons and provocative thoughts about the whirlwind of events happening during this horrific time. Seventy-four years have passed since the Holocaust but, for our survivors, there isn’t a day that goes by that they don’t think of the horrors from that time. We currently have seven Holocaust survivors who still live in Charleston.

Three of our survivors still go out into the community to share their stories with as many people as they can. Many aren’t aware they can still hear a living account of the Holocaust through a local survivor. The Charleston Jewish Federation works to preserve this history and enable the community to hear from our survivors which can be found at our website (

R: Morgan, tell us about the special display of Anne Frank’s writings.

McCaskill Bailey: The exhibit traces Anne’s life and the surrounding history of her time. It also has a contemporary section that further explores themes of prejudice and discrimination that we see in Anne’s story in a present-day context. This traveling exhibit was developed by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam to take Anne’s story and message of hope and acceptance into communities around the world. These exhibits have been seen in over 90 countries since 1985. In every country and community, people find ways to connect with the story in authentic ways. The lessons we learn from this story are universal.

R: Courtney, how did the Flowertown Players choose to do this serious play this year?

B: We aim to provide the public with at least one educational/historically based show yearly. Last year, we produced The Crucible and, when in discussion for our 44th season, our committee believed this new adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank was a perfect fit for the genre and had a significant relevance to today.

R: Courtney, what is the central element from either Anne Frank’s life or that period that you want the audience to learn?

Bates: This is Anne’s Story. The audience gets to see life during this unspeakable time through her eyes...experience it day by day. Before WWII began, the Nazi party would pass 1 to 2 laws yearly, slowly taking Jewish freedoms away. The Jewish people lived within these limitations — conforming to their new world order each year. I want audiences to understand the daily fear, uncertainty, and struggle the Franks endured, that they are a family like ours with hopes, dreams, and ambitions which were cut short. I hope people take away Anne’s belief: “in spite of everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart.”

Mary E. Regan, Columnist, is a Publicist with her ProPublicist consultancy. Story ideas? Email:

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