|Jerry Gass (left) as Mr. Kaler and Dorne Lefere (right) as Otto Frank share close family ties|
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
Anne Frank’s story would never have been told were it not for those who survived her. In the Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank, Dorne Lefere and Jerry Gass play characters based on real people who continued to tell Anne’s story well after World War II: Dorne portrays Otto Frank (father of Anne and Margot, and husband of Edith), and Jerry plays Mr. Kaler, who is based on the life of Victory Kugler. It’s hard to imagine how life went on for Otto Frank after the war, but after publishing Anne’s diary in 1947, he eventually remarried a fellow Jewish survivor Fritzi Markovits, in 1953. The couple lived Switzerland until Frank died in 1980. Victor Kugler was an employee of Otto Frank who helped run his business after he went into hiding. As shown in the play, Kugler secretly bought supplies and money to the Franks, at great personal risk to himself and his family. Although Kugler was arrested with those in the Annex, he escaped during a forced march from a concentration camp. He remarried, moved to Canada -- where he gave talks in schools about Anne Frank -- and died in 1981.
Dorne Lefere can relate to the Anne Frank story because, like Otto, he knows what it’s like to have a close father-daughter relationship. However, as Dorne says, “that close relationship cuts both ways. I am constantly reminded that, unlike Otto Frank, I am a man who was able to: raise a daughter and watch her become woman; walk her down the aisle on her wedding day; and hold her own children in my arms and sing them to sleep.” Dorne connects with Otto by “my being not only the father of a girl, but also now the grandfather of three girls. My oldest granddaughter is only a few years younger than Anne was when she first went into hiding.”
Jerry Gass is married (to Jan Cartwright) and has “five fabulous kids, plus in-laws, and grandkids,” so he can also appreciate the joys of family and feel the tragedy of the lives cut short. As Jerry says, “I love that the play touches on aspects of family, loyalty, courage, and perseverance. Visiting the Holocaust Center bonded the cast. My memory of that day will always be not only what I saw, but who was with me when we saw it.” Jerry feels strongly that “this play deserves to be embraced by audiences. Director Maureen Mansfield has shown great leadership in encouraging all of us to bring personal experiences into the show, and I believe it will resonate with anyone who sees it, regardless of their personal background or perspective.” Dorne adds that Anne Frank is still relevant today because of the “parallels to the bigotry and suspicion exhibited by some of our political leaders and general population towards minority religious groups.”
Among his many passions, Jerry includes “my zealous allegiance to Michigan State athletics, Tiger baseball, and Summer-league softball.” Dorne recently retired as a business owner and lawyer. However, as he jokes, “I keep my membership in the Michigan Bar active in order to continue to represent my children in traffic matters, which activity constituted the bulk of my practice when they were teenagers. I still get Christmas cards from several collision shops in the Detroit area.”
The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. The show has three remaining performances from March 3 – March 5. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-553-2955.