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August 7, 2018 11:34 am

Jewish Director Behind New Anne Frank Production Explains Choice of Mostly-Hispanic Cast

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Anne Frank. Photo: Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam.

The director behind a new stage production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” explained on Monday his decision to cast mostly Hispanic actors in the play.

Jewish director Stan Zimmerman, a former writer for the sitcom “Roseanne” during its original run, proclaimed during an interview on CNN, “As a Jew, I would never demean her story,” referring to Anne Frank, whose famous diary told the tale of a Jewish family living in hiding during the World War II Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

He said about his casting choice, “I’m hoping that the tragedy of Anne and the Holocaust can reach a whole new audience but it also can [be] used to educate. We are doing this out of love and honor for her story.”

Zimmerman added that two of the main Hispanic actors in the play, who are teenagers, walked into the audition not knowing Anne Frank’s story. Zimmerman said, “I had to read it in school, it was part of our curriculum, and today it is not part of the curriculum, which I think is a sad fact.”

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Zimmerman’s casting decision was inspired by a CNN report about a Jewish woman in Los Angeles who created a “safe house” for a Latino mother and her two daughters after her husband was deported by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency for illegally crossing the border. The director said, “I immediately went to the play ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ and that made me think, ‘What if I had cast predominately Latin-esque actors in this play,’ and I got very excited to start the dialogue of what that would mean for them.”

The director also debunked false reports claiming that Nazis would be replaced by ICE agents in the play. He explained, “We are not changing the Nazis into ICE. We’re doing a word-for-word presentation of the 1997 Broadway production that Natalie Portman started in. No words will be changed.”

He added, “If you’re expecting to come next month to see the production in LA looking for ICE members you will be disappointed, but I think you will also see a really heartwarming wonderful story that needs to be told today.”

The production opens on September 6 at the Dorie Theatre in Los Angeles.

Watch Zimmerman’s interview with CNN below:

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