The Burbank Human Relations Council (BHRC) has partnered with Pop-Up Playhouse, Tracey Rooney and Wilson Cruz, to bring the LatinX production of The Diary of Anne Frank to The Colony Theatre on January 19th and 20th.
Supported by the Rosenthal Family Foundation and directed by Stan Zimmerman, the critically acclaimed 2018 Los Angeles production of The Diary of Anne Frank is coming to The Colony Theatre for a limited time. Zimmerman helmed all five iterations of the play which will now make its debut in Burbank.
The show has a predominately LatinX cast and includes 2021 John Burroughs High School graduate, Genesis Ochoa, in the role of Anne Frank. Ochoa was a member of the JBHS advanced women’s show choir “Sound Sensations,” and won first place at Burbank’s Singing Star competition. She was cast as Anne Frank in 2019 when she was just 15 years old, so the role has played a significant part of her teenage experience. “As a Burroughs graduate it is the best feeling to get to perform for students in the district,” said Ochoa. “It’s amazing to be able to perform for students from different schools and bring awareness to Anne’s story while showing educators how important it is to keep her story in the curriculum.”
“I remember when I first auditioned for the role of Anne, and I asked Stan Zimmerman (Director), what his intention behind casting the entire ensemble with LatinX actors was. That’s when he told me about the parallels he found between what happened during the Holocaust and what was happening then and now at the border,” added Ochoa.
Ochoa thinks that since the pandemic, young people will have a better understanding of Anne’s loneliness, relating to the experience of being indoors during the early days of 2020. The loss of her father last year has also given Ochoa connection with Anne where she is able to relate to the character in a heartfelt way. “It means a lot to not only be able to tell Anne’s story, but to do it with other people who come from a similar background as myself,” she added.
Danny Pardo, who is of Jewish and Hispanic decent, portrays the role of Mr. Van Dann in The Diary of Anne Frank and is connected to the story being a grandson of holocaust survivors. “The fact is that this story needs to be shared,” said Pardo. “It cannot be forgotten and I owe it not only to my grandfather but to the generations who come after us to make sure this play comes alive in the hearts of our audience.”
Director Stan Zimmerman’s unique casting and stage choices for the production were inspired by a CNN “Newsroom” segment about a Jewish woman in Los Angeles who created a “Safe House” for a Latina mother and her two daughters after her husband was deported by ICE. “With antisemitism on the rise, the transportation of immigrants as political pawns and an Anne Frank book being banned in Texas, unfortunately, this production is more timely than ever,” said Zimmerman.
The production has received a lot of media attention over the years and received four Broadway World nominations including Best Play, Best Actress (Genesis Ochoa), Best Actor (Emiliano Torres) and Best Director (Stan Zimmerman).
The show runs an hour and fifty minutes with a Talk Back after each performance that will be moderated by Burbank resident and Spectrum1 News anchor, Tara Lynn Wagner. During the post-show Talk Backs, holocaust survivor, Gabriella Y. Karin will be attending as a special guest. Karin went into hiding at the same age as Anne Frank.
Two morning shows on January 19 and 20 are reserved specifically for middle school students since Anne’s diary is no longer a required reading in most schools. The BHRC is working with BUSD to ensure the students get the opportunity to attend. “I am truly excited about this production – both as a Board Member of the Burbank Human Relations Council and as a Cultural Arts Commissioner,” said Suzanne Weerts. “But perhaps more importantly as someone who believes in the importance of understanding history so we don’t repeat the horrific mistakes of the past.”
The Thursday, January 19th, 7:30 PM show is open to the public with tickets starting at $15 for students, $25 for general, and $40 for reserved. Tickets will be $30 at the door and can be purchased HERE.