BROOKSVILLE — A year ago, it was summer love, teenage angst and the memorable musical numbers of Grease that had audiences at Central High School singing along with lighthearted happiness.
This year, there will be neither songs nor dancing. And many in the audience may well be moved to tears.
This weekend, the Central High School theater department will perform The Diary of Anne Frank, a play that the New York Times called a "lovely, tender drama."
The show is much different from typical year-end musicals performed at local high schools. It is a heavier, darker drama based on the diary of one of the most notable victims of the Holocaust, chronicling more than two years of the Jewish teen's life in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.
"We did a few comedies in the fall," said Central drama teacher Leonard Budd, who co-directs the show with student director Kristina Korobeynikova. "But someone mentioned they were interested in doing (The Diary of Anne Frank). The students talked about it, and it came together."
It was a play with which Budd, an English teacher, is familiar, having performed as Otto Frank when he was a senior in high school. Although there are more modern scripts, he decided to use the original from the 1950s. "It's a great opportunity for young actors to explore strong characters."
Now in her senior year, Korobeynikova, who has acted in a number of plays, including playing Rizzo in last spring's production of Grease, is finding her role as director and stage manager a rewarding experience. "I wanted to try something new and exciting," she said. "I'm working with stage movements, emotions and costumes. … It is more than just helping them with their lines. There is more emotion in this play, and I have to help them portray sorrow, hunger, darkness."
Because it is a small cast of 10 characters, the roles of the lively Anne and her more mild-mannered older sister Margot have been double cast. Friday's performance will feature senior Mackinzey Likens as Anne and junior Jennifer Scalf as Margot. On Saturday, it will be freshmen Kaitlyn MacLean and Ashley Lawrence, respectively.
The play, in two acts, takes place in the secret annex — hidden rooms above Mr. Frank's business where the Franks and the van Daans spend 2 1/2 years in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. The set was built by the cast and their parents, much of it over spring break. Parents John and Sally Scalf and William Turiello put in numerous hours.
"We are very thankful to them," Korobeynikova said.
Otto Frank, played by junior Tyler Cross, is the head of the annex, the thread that keeps the group together. During their stay, there are some poignant moments, including young love, while the two families strive to get along in tight quarters.
In her first starring role, MacLean said one of her favorite scenes is when Anne and Peter are spending time, teasing and chasing one another around.
Likens said she enjoys Anne's energy, but that she can also get quiet. "Anne has a lot of energy and non-filtered behavior."
Korobeynikova said both actors "are incredibly good."
"Each gives a different, unique portrayal of Anne," she said.
The rest of the cast both days includes Rebecca Bae as Miep, Zoe Glader as Mrs. van Daan, Jeff Dow as Mr. van Daan, Cameron Alexandre as Peter van Daan, Darian Dwyer as Mrs. Frank, Nathan Lord as Mr. Kraler and Joshua Ward as Mr. Dussel.
Budd believes the timing of the production is right. "I really believe, with 9/11 and the way we are distancing ourselves from the horror of that, we are also distancing ourselves from the Holocaust," he said. "The concern is with remembering history to avoid repeating it."
To help prepare for the show, Budd said the cast read books and other background information. "They now understand the angst of the story, and the motivation of the characters, and what they were feeling … the terror and horror of the world."