LOS ANGELES - Anne Frank’s story is known around the world. Her diary has been translated into more than 70 languages. Taking on such a well-known and iconic role is a big job, and young actress Ava Lalezarzadeh takes it very seriously.
During rehearsal a few days before the U.S. premiere of Anne, a New Play, she described playing Anne as "a responsibility and an honor, an obligation to do right by her and to do right by everybody who she represents.”
For her, this story is personal. The UCLA theater student is Iranian-Jewish. Her parents – who later met in the U.S. – both fled Iran during the revolution. They were teenagers at the time -- the same age Anne Frank was when she was in hiding.
“When your family comes from a background that is persecuted," Lalezarzadeh said, "it almost feel like it’s in your DNA to tell those kinds of stories so that they don’t repeat itself.”
This play however offers a different take on the familiar story. In Anne, a New Play, which is being presented by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, young Anne imagines her life after the war. She's safe in Paris, telling her story to a publisher.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says it’s likely Anne would have had such thoughts during her years in hiding.
“In order to survive in the attic, you had to fantasize," he explained while walking through the museum's Anne Frank exhibit. "All around you to be all around surrounded by Nazis, wondering when they are coming for you. The only way is to carve out some space and say it didn’t happen. I’m living in a different world and imagine a world that is free.”
While one story is playing out in the Museum of Tolerance’s Peltz Theater, he hopes audiences will also delve deeper into the real story by visiting the exhibit upstairs from the stage.
“The reality of the documents, the original archives, you can’t beat that.”
But what the play can do, Lalezarzadeh hopes, is give people a new perspective.
“I hope that it’s going to become more real and true to them. That she could be our daughter and she could be our sister and she could be our friend.”
And while she imagines the show will be difficult for her parents to watch, “I also think they’re going to be really proud that I’m telling stories that matter.”
Anne, a New Play is adapted by Nick Blaemire and directed by Eve Brandstein. It runs through July 22nd.
For tickets and showtimes, click here.