‘The Voice of Anne Frank’ performance crafts new insights to world of theater

Dr. Mirenka Cechova dramatizes a dialogue between Anne Frank and her father, showing Annes playful side. Dr. Cechova brought her performance of The Voice of Anne Frank to Stephens college on November 3. Photo by Abby Kempf

Dr. Mirenka Cechova dramatizes a dialogue between Anne Frank and her father, showing Anne’s playful side. Dr. Cechova brought her performance of The Voice of Anne Frank to Stephens college on November 3. Photo by Abby Kempf

Abby Kempf

Dr. Mirenka Cechova dramatizes a dialogue between Anne Frank and her father, showing Anne's playful side. Dr. Cechova brought her performance of The Voice of Anne Frank to Stephens college on November 3. Photo by Abby KempfDr. Mirenka Cechova began her performance with her back to the audience, dressed in a lavender, minimalist unitard, hair pushed out of her face, and a voice that rang out through the Firestone-Baars Chapel at Stephens College Monday, November 3.
Along with cellist Nancy Jo Snider, Dr. Cechova has performed this piece all across the globe from South Africa, to Israel, to the Netherlands. The Czech native is a Fulbright scholar and has been awarded numerous times for her brilliant work in the integration of movement and theater, which she has truly championed in The Voice of Anne Frank.
This lecture demonstration that included excerpts from her full piece, was the second of two parts. The first was a workshop Dr. Cechova gave to Stephens’ theater and dance students.
“Its this incredible bridge between and dance. It has its own identity and its own vitality. Its another form of expression, which I think is great for us to offer students,” Stephens’ dean Gail Humphries Mardirosian said. “Dance and theatre students both came to [the workshop], and learned what it is to fully invest emotion in your body, and it changes the texture of the words.”
The students learned skills they had previously never been exposed to, said Stephens sophomore Melissa Trierweiler. She said the workshop was “almost an out of body experience.”
“[Dr. Cechova] taught us the basic techniques of physical theater, basically isolating different parts of the body in movements, [like] head, knee, chest and also connecting them with our voices,” Trierweiler said. “We would do various movements with out body and speak aloud ‘Head, head, knee, foot.’ in correlation to the movement. We also partnered up and had conversation just by physical movements.”
Dr. Mirenka Cechova strike a pose in a promotional shot for The Voice of Anne Frank. The performance incorporates ballet, voice, and music. Photo courtesy of American University.The performance later that day showcased the work of Dr. Cechova and Snider, and brought the Diary of Anne Frank to life as never seen before. Dr. Cechova played Anne Frank through her voice and her body while Snider played “Kitty” Anne’s imaginary friend, and her mother and father through the cello.
During the lecture component of the night Dr. Cechova explained that her inspiration for the opening portion of her performance was the quote from Anne’s diary, “I wander from room to room, climb up and down the stairs and feel like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage,” and the concept of Anne writing in her diary for all of the movements she incorporated to give Anne life.
Trieweiler found this portion to be the most striking moment of the entire performance.
“The first section she performed without showing her face to the audience at all for… several moments. That to me was very powerful,” Trieweiler said. “The use of lighting effects really highlighted some key moments.”
Dr. Cechova used simplistic props such as the sleeve of a shirt and tablecloth to represent many different things. She said she enjoyed using these props that were open to interpretation, because that meant that each audience member could take away something different. Dr. Cechova said that each and every interpretation was “valid and correct.”
Besides the power of her art form, Dr. Cechova’s subject matter also commands the attention of the audience, Humphries Mardirosian said.
“The notion of the struggles of Anne Frank are important for every generation to deal with and reckon with. What is it when you are oppressed and there are political circumstances that you cannot control? How do you reckon? And the way she reckons with her introspection through the diary is just a remarkable symbol of resilience and resistance,” Humphries Mardirosian said. “I think that’s an inspiration; I hope it’s an inspiration for young people.”
Dr. Cechova and Snider are taking The Voice of Anne Frank to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Terrace Theatre late November to allow yet another audience to hear the undiluted voice of Anne Frank.
By Abby Kempf
Photos by Abby Kempf
Have you watched a one-man (or woman) show? What did you think of it?