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In the annex are Joseph Beaty as Peter Van Daan, and Eileen Campbell as Anne Frank. (Photo provided by Holly McNeill)

The drama program at South Elgin High School takes a serious turn with the production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" from Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 7 to 9. Local students in the cast include Eileen Campbell of Wayne in the title role; Garrett Kessler, Connor Murray, Michael Narhi, Brianne Panico and Ashley Taylor, all of Bartlett; and Anthony Sparks of Streamwood.

The play dramatizes the World War II journal entries of the teenage Jewish girl who spent two years in hiding in Amsterdam with her family and others, only to be taken by the Nazis near the end of the war and put to death in a concentration camp.

“I think about it so much,” said junior Eileen Campbell, who plays the lead. “Anne was actually a real person and really horrible things happened to her. I don’t know how to wrap my mind around it, but I constantly try.”

The hope of director Holly McNeill, SEHS drama director and English teacher, is that students in the cast and the audience will feel the terror, but be inspired by the humanity and courage of Anne and the others who survived two years of constant danger.

"Playing a character who went through such a horrible experience makes me think of my own life,” said junior Joseph Beaty, who plays Peter Van Daan, who becomes Anne’s friend. “Peter was 16. He was my age. It’s really hard to comprehend. If history repeated itself, I could go through what he went through. Realizing that is powerful.”
McNeill explains why she selected the play for the school's production.

“I want to teach the Holocaust in such a way that the story will show students that one person can do so much, help us never forget that it happened, and inspire others not to be bystanders but to take a stand,” she said.

To help students better understand, McNeill took the cast members on a field trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

“We’re not trying to say everything is horrible, that humanity is horrible,” Campbell said. “The play is not supposed to leave you with that, and it doesn’t leave me with that. It just makes me mournful for what did happen, and really hopeful that we can make sure it never happens again.”

The play was written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on the book "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," in a newly adapted version by Wendy Kesselman.

Performances will be held in the South Elgin High School auditorium, 760 E. Main St. Curtain is at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday. The cast also will give two matinee performances for students Wednesday, Nov. 6.

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors. They also can be ordered by calling the director, Holly McNeill, at 847-289-3760, ext. 3377, or by e-mailing her at