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Middle-schoolers perform The Diary of Anne Frank
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While most middle schools are putting on comedies and musicals, one is departing from the norm with a stage production about a very dark time for the world.

Riverview Middle will perform "The Diary of Anne Frank" at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.

The story is told from the perspective of the young Dutch girl hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands from 1942-44.

"This is a sharp contrast from our usual plays or musicals and comedies," said Marcia Faircloth, Riverview's gifted teacher. "This play is near to me because my first year here my students wrote to Miep [Gies], who found the diary."

Faircloth said she and her students initially connected with Frank's story after reaching out to Gies, who protected Frank's diary until the end of World War II.

"We had just read the diary and her birthday was coming up, so we sent her a birthday card to Amsterdam," Faircloth said. "She wrote us back and it was just such a cool thing because it showed them that she wasn't just a person in a book. She was a real person out there."

As the play deals with a time of Jewish persecution under Nazi occupation, it does contain lines in German. Luckily, the middle school has some help from May Lonhard, a junior exchange student from Germany who is attending Dawson County High School.

"There are some German lines in the play, so basically I've told them the lines and how to pronounce them," Lonhard said. "Together, they've been learning with me how to at least come close in pronouncing them.

"There are some kids who do a great job. They've, of course, got a bit of an accent, but I have an accent too. They've been doing really good."

For eighth-grader Alexis Bagley, who plays Frank's mother, Edith, the German lines were hard to learn, but became more natural over time, thanks to Lonhard.

"The German lines have been difficult," she said. "But since we've had May, it's been a little bit easier for me, with her help. She's been teaching us the dialect and how to say things. It's been a challenge, but I like a challenge."

Lonhard said that the play is a source of cultural significance for her.

"I've really enjoyed working on this play. In Germany, we are very deep in the history now," she said. "I've always been interested in this topic and I've really enjoyed working on the play."

It's a subject that isn't as taboo there as it once was.

"I've gotten a lot of questions about the Nazis in Germany," she said. "Germany is not as strict about talking about the history as it [used to be]. It's very free to talk about. It's not like that you can't talk about it."

Lonhard is not only helping with the vocal coaching, but also is in charge of lighting and graphical and poster work for the play.

For the Dawson County students, it's a play of great significance for them, as well.

"I've been in plays before that have all been silly, kiddy musicals," said eighth-grader Piper Martin, who plays Gies. "But this is serious and it actually happened. It really means a lot to get to play this part and learn about the history."

Seventh-grader Hannah Bagley said she has dived into the play's starring role.

"It's really inspiring to play this character," she said. "I really learned the story of what happened to her and how she dealt with these things."

For the younger Bagley, it's a role that will stay with her, due to its real-world significance.

"I feel that we should do plays with cultural significance because then the plays mean something," she said. "They're not something that's silly, but they have historical value to teach something."