Pit and Balcony show features SVSU students, alumni

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On Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m., Pit and Balcony in Saginaw showed its first performance of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

While there have been many shows at Pit and Balcony over the years, this one is unique because it includes many SVSU students and alumni.

2017 alumna Jaeleen Davis is one of many alumni in the show. She portrays Anne Frank, the show’s leading role, and she enjoyed working with SVSU alumni and current students.

“Working with so many past and present SVSU students, we were able to come together and collaborate on this project with similar understandings of goals and backgrounds, which created an environment where we all could contribute to ideas and a process that has been smoothly handled,” Davis said.

Because of the values that the SVSU theatre department instilled in its students, she knew the show preparations and, consequently, that performances would go well.

“SVSU’s theatre department has a wonderful reputation of preparing students for the hard work, diligence and work ethic that is necessary to create wonderful works of art,” Davis said.

Danielle Katsoulos, a 2010 graduate and the play’s director, believed that working with so many individuals who gained their theatre backgrounds from SVSU helped the cast and crew come together and was a wonderful experience.

“I love working with my fellow friends from SVSU,” Katsoulos said. “It always helps to work with people you have previously built connections with.”

Even though the show was put together in a relatively short amount of time, the cast and crew worked hard so that they were still able to enjoy the process that built up to the phenomenal performances during the show’s first run, Jan. 26-28.

“I enjoy the entire journey,” Katsoulos said. “From the first time I sat down with my production team and told them my vision, to watching everyone come together and introduce their own creative ideas, to discussing history with my actors, to building relationships on and off the stage. I love how the collaboration of so many talented and hard-working individuals creates something so much more powerful than I could ever be capable of creating on my own.”

The story of Anne Frank is well-known, but the actors and actresses had to work extra hard to make sure they were presenting her story in a way that is factually and historically correct. The cast and crew even took the time to visit the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.

They also researched World War II, suffrage during Frank’s lifetime and Jewish customs to increase their knowledge and make the performances much more realistic.

“This is one of the darkest times in history, and so many of the lines within our performance are actual lines that people have written or spoken about their struggles, which brings about such weight and a sense of personal responsibility,” Davis said.

Katsoulos researched the play’s subject matter to ensure that the play and performers were accurate and responsible in their representation of Frank’s world.

“Since this is such a renowned piece of work, I have to be extra meticulous when it comes to historical accuracy,” Katsoulos said. “Anne Frank’s story is so powerful on a historical level, emotional level and social level. The themes and messages conveyed through ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ are timeless, as we are still fighting hatred, prejudices and indifference throughout the world today.”

No matter how many times Anne Frank’s story is told, it will never become irrelevant to its audiences.

“My goal is to educate (the audience) so they can be reminded to never take the true beauties in life for granted and to continue to stand up for equality and fight for what is right,” Katsoulos said.

Those interested in seeing the performance can still catch another run of the show from Feb. 2-4.

Specific show times and ticket information are available on the Pit and Balcony website.

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