Since moving to Philadelphia from New Orleans in 2005, Egopo Classic Theater has devoted each of their seasons to a particular writer or theatrical style, from Tennessee Williams to Samuel Beckett to the French avant-garde.
This season, artistic director Lane Savadove’s obsession of the year is Jewish theater, and he’s coming out of the gates swinging with a classic of the American stage, “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
“I’m Jewish, but had never done any theater related to that until I directed a production of ‘Fiddler On the Roof’ here at Rowan [University],” says Savadove, who is a professor at Rowan. “During rehearsals, it suddenly hit me that the young children in the play would have been about the same age as my grandfather when he left Russia. I got this wave of pride about how fast Jews rebuilt their lives in America.”
For this “Diary,” Egopo is utilizing the more recent adaptation by Wendy Kesselman, the same script used in the 1997 Broadway revival starring Natalie Portman. Kesselman’s text incorporates many passages — previously excluded by various editors, including Frank’s father — dealing with the young girl’s burgeoning sexuality, her frustration with her parents and her religious practices.
Working in the tight confines of the Prince Music Theatre Cabaret, Savadove — who is also directing the play — promises an intimate, brutally honest production, with an emphasis on realism.
“When I first thought about this play, I really worried, like, ‘Oh no, this is a high school, community theater piece, and that’s not who we are.’ But, then I read it, and I realized that this is really a powerful, dangerous play,” explains Savadove. “So, if this play has always had a kind of schmaltzy feel about it, then I think we’re putting up an important version — something raw and honest.”