Winnipeg playwright imagines a future if Anne Frank survived
A play that asks one of the biggest 'what-ifs' of the Second World War opens at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's Warehouse Theatre.
theatre

Winnipeg playwright imagines a future if Anne Frank survived

The Secret Annex by Alix Sobler opens at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's Warehouse

Posted:Feb 19, 2014 2:47 PM CT

Last Updated:Feb 19, 2014 3:19 PM CT

Tal Gottfried plays Anne Frank in The Secret Annex by local playwright Alix Sobler.

Tal Gottfried plays Anne Frank in The Secret Annex by local playwright Alix Sobler. Bruce Monk

A play that asks one of the biggest 'what-ifs' of the Second World War opens at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's Warehouse Theatre. 

The play is called The Secret Annex and imagines that Anne Frank survives the war and moves to New York to become a writer. That's the fairy tale ending we all want for her but in this play, life and society still manage to throw curve balls her way.

Local playwright Alix Sobler, who is one of this year's "Group of Seven" woman playwrights being presented on Manitoba stages, said Anne Frank remains such an icon. "She's such an important figure of World War II and for many people she's the introduction to knowing the Holocaust and understanding the Holocaust.

'She was an amazing writer, she knew what she wanted, she was ahead of her time, she was a feminist, she was a great thinker, she was a wonderfully naive and innocent, yet worldly person so she was a huge influence on me.'- Alix Sobler

"I think she's become so much larger than life and in some important ways, almost separated from being  a real person," she continued.

"I wanted to see what would have happened if we changed the story. Would she have made the same kind of impact? What would her life have been like, and what were the possibilities of that future?"

Sobler first read Anne Frank's diary when she was 12 years old and as an actor, always wanted to play her. She says Frank had so much potential. If she had survived the war, it's clear she would have gone on to become a wonderful writer.

"She was such an inspiring person. She was an amazing writer, she knew what she wanted, she was ahead of her time, she was a feminist, she was a great thinker, she was a wonderfully naive and innocent, yet worldly person so she was a huge influence on me."

The play opens with Anne Frank's book manuscript being turned down.

"She needs to struggle with how to cope with that, how to live her life and where to go from there when this thing that she's pinned all her dreams on doesn't seem to be happening," she explained.

"What I did in my play was I tried to be true to Anne and her voice and what she would have wanted and what she would have hoped for, but also true to the world of the time and the way that we respond to certain kinds of stories and certain kinds of people and explore what would have happened in terms of a conflict if she had survived and had tried to pursue this career."

Tal Gottfried and Andrew Cecon in The Secret Annex.

Tal Gottfried as Anne Frank and Andrew Cecon as Peter Van Pels in The Secret Annex. (Bruce Monk)

​Sobler said the play was a challenge to write, as she felt very emotionally attached to the characters.

"I felt a great responsibility in giving Anne Frank a life and wanting to see her experience some of the things that we cherish as human begins and life cycles.

"So what I hope is that it expands beyond watching what might have happened to Anne Frank to seeing ourselves and our own struggle to make sense of our lives, why we're here, redefine our definitions of success and our definition of the meaning of life."

The Secret Annex opens at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's John Hendry Warehouse on Thursday, Feb. 20 and runs until March 8. 

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