Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Friday, February 19, 2016

If You Don’t Notice Annie Schunior, She’s Played Her Part Well

Annie Schunior as Miep Gies brings news of the outside world to Anne (Amy Cassell)
PHOTO by Brigid Blaschak 
Annie Schunior caught the acting bug when she first got involved in community theater at age 13.  At Churchill High School’s Creative and Performing Arts Program (CAPA), every role she played was “either a villain, self-absorbed diva, or person of very questionable morals,” including her favorite part, the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.  But it wasn’t until she was cast as Miep Gies in The Diary of Anne Frank at the Farmington Players that she came to the following realization: sometimes the “true hero” of a story is the one who acts selflessly, outside the limelight, without ever getting recognition or attention for her deeds.

Annie didn’t even remember the role of Miep when she’s seen the play staged before, but now she understands how instrumental Miep’s anonymity was to the survival of those in the Annex.  As Annie said, “I think it is very fitting Miep does not have a large role. I think she would have wanted her role to be very small because everything she did, she didn’t do for recognition. She did it to save lives. I can’t even imagine the pressure she must have been under trying to save the lives of eight others, all the while keeping it a secret for her own life and the life of her husband. I think that is a true hero -- someone who puts others before themselves when it seems hardest. If it weren’t for Miep, we wouldn’t have Anne’s diary (as the Nazis later raided the Secret Annex, but not before Miep stashed away the diary to give to Anne after the War). We wouldn’t have this play. We wouldn’t have this huge insight into the lives of Jews in hiding.”

Annie was 13 – the same age as Anne Frank – when she first ready The Diary of Anne Frank.  She immediately felt connected to the WWII era story from “listening to my grandpa tell bits and pieces from his times in the Navy and his own personal experience with the Normandy invasion.”  Even though WWII ended over 70 years ago, Annie thinks “people will be able to recognize our own modern world in Anne Frank’s 1940s Amsterdam. This was a travesty that should never have happened. And yet similar travesties are happening around the world today. I think it can show how much we still have to learn and yet in the midst of turmoil, hope and the human spirit are stronger than we give them credit for. We will all go through tough times in our lives, but Anne gives such a beautiful and innocent example of being a light in dark times.”   During college, Annie studied in Austria for four months, an experience that was “life changing for me. I traveled to see some of WWII’s historical landmarks firsthand like Auschwitz in Poland, Vienna, the Eagle’s Nest, Salzburg and Munich, and parts of England, Italy and France.”

Although this show portrays tragic events, Annie says, “I feel very grateful for Miep and the rest of the staff’s sacrifice because it led us to this story, it led me to this show, and this show has helped me realize the need for people like Miep, the need for sacrifice and being there for others, stranger or not, no matter the cost.”

The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. The show includes 12 performances from February 12 – March 5. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Connor Green Taps His Inner Boy to Find the Joy in Anne Frank

Connor Green as Peter Van Daan and Amy Cassell as Anne Frank share a tender moment
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank opens Friday February 12, with three shows over Valentine’s weekend.  While everyone knows how the story ends, 19 year-old Connor Green of Farmington prefers instead to focus on the positive aspects of the play. As he says, “even under the threat of death and persecution, life as well as love can and will find a way to overcome any adversity.”   Connor plays Peter Van Daan, the adolescent son of Hermann and Petronella Van Daan, played enthusiastically by Gary Weinstein and Nancy Cooper, respectively. Connor thinks this family dynamic will resonate with audiences.  As he says, The Diary of Anne Frank is “a story about how unique and intricate families can be, how even when things are at their worst a silver lining can be found and joy can be had. There are even some simple things like how men and women really never will understand each other, so why don’t we just agree to disagree? And as long as you have family and people who love and care about you, nothing can get you down!”

Connor sees Peter as a complex and “incredibly interesting character, a boy making the transition to manhood (which is by itself a very complex and difficult time) thrust into hiding by forces who want him dead for what he believes in. Combine that with having almost no escape from his overbearing mother and paranoid jerk of a dad, as well as the mixed bag of the Frank family, and you have a character constantly being pulled in different directions, while not compromising who he is and the person he will become.”  To play Peter convincingly, Connor strives to find “that boyish sense of curiosity; that wonder of what the future holds and how the world is yours for the taking” while never forgetting that Peter was “a real person with interests, dreams, and a unique and beautiful identity who had his life stolen by the Nazis.”

Connor wanted to make his Barn debut in The Diary of Anne Frank because he considers the Barn “an amazing place where people from all around can come together to portray amazing stories and powerful messages.”  Despite his youthful exuberance, Connor also connects with the darker themes of the play, saying, “I mostly relate to the theme of isolation. Throughout my life I can recount many, many times where I felt completely and utterly alone with no escape. Like Peter and the rest of the Annex members, life can feel difficult to impossible if there is no escape from the same mundane life, no sentiment from the outside world, to feel utterly alone in this world can be the most horrendous feeling.”

In addition to theater, Connor loves to camp, hike, fish, bike, and play all kinds of adventure sports: “If it’s in the great outdoors don’t be surprised to find me there!” He is currently a student at Oakland Community College. 

The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. The show includes 12 performances from February 12 – March 5. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Like Petronella, Nancy Cooper is the Life of the Party in Anne Frank

Getting Petronella Van Daan (Nancy Cooper, seated) to give up her comforts is like pulling teeth
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
When Nancy Cooper moved to Michigan 13 years ago, she found a flyer in the library for The Farmington Players and showed up for a meeting.  She soon found herself onstage, and has been an active member of the Barn family ever since.  Nancy admits that after growing up in a very small Ohio community in the 1970s, she had “never met a Jew, an African-American, a vegetarian, or a homosexual before I started school. The lessons about understanding the differences and the similarities among people were priceless and I am forever grateful to have learned them.”  Nancy broadened her horizons at the University of Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts: “I learned so much about the arts, but I also learned so much about other people. The school was a mix of students from all over the Cincinnati area that represented a blend of race, religion and culture unlike any other place.”

Nancy brings her perspective on the human condition to the Farmington Players’ production of The Diary of Anne Frank, where she plays Petronella Van Daan.  Nancy describes her character as “the kind of woman who would always be the life of the party. She enjoys laughter, dancing, good food, and expensive things. At the critical point of her life portrayed in the play, she is in fear of losing everything she has enjoyed. Removed from her home, her friends and extended family, and her creature comforts, she adjusts as well as she knows how. She is not unrealistic and understands that lives are at stake, but tries to hold on to the hope that some day things may once again be as they were before the war.”  What is her biggest challenge in playing Petronella?  Nancy answers, “To balance her humor with the gravity of the circumstance. She attempts to keep things lighter than some other characters in the annex. I believe that if I were plunged into a similar circumstance, I might behave exactly like Petronella.”

Nancy understands that while Anne Frank is about the Holocaust, it is “also about relationships, love, and above all hope. I think that the audience will soak up the sense of seeing the best when you are in the midst of the worst. And that is always relevant. The theme I relate to the most is hanging on to each other to get through the bad times in life. Life is hard. People have problems, illnesses, and sometimes seemingly hopeless circumstances, but I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by the love of friends and family that make all of life's misery bearable. I think that the eight people in the annex, and the people outside supporting them hold onto each other to get through the most difficult time of their lives out of hope for a better future.”

Nancy first saw The Diary of Anne Frank when she was 10, and was so moved by the ending, “I literally could not breathe. I knew that I wanted to be a part of that show, to tell that story with such impact. For years I have waited for the show to be produced in a venue that I am connected with, and finally, I have my opportunity to tell the story.”   Nancy can certainly relate to director Maureen Mansfield’s “long driven passion for this show, and it shows in rehearsal. Her insight is beautiful and comes from a place very deep inside her. It's hard to put into words, but I know the audience will see it in the production.”


The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. The show includes 12 performances from February 12 – March 5. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

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