|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 email@example.com or 248-553-2955.