Thursday, July 7, 2011


Dumb luck plays a big role in the design biz...

While traveling, I checked email a few times for distant crisis (one, resolved without me, phew!) and back-n-forthed with an artistic director about next season.  So there I happened to be, on my only free morning in Amsterdam, when I got an e-invitation to design Anne Frank's Diary.  What are the odds?

So I visited Anne Frank's hiding place.
Anne Frank (ware)House, Amsterdam, photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The building was her father's business warehouse, two old Amsterdam canal houses set one behind the other.  Two upper floors and the attic of the rear building were hidden from view and therefor easy to forget - the entry to them was hidden behind a bookcase.  Eight people hid there from the Nazi roundup of Jews for about two years.  Until betrayed.

The site is now a historical museum - very well and sensitively done.

I love the Diary which Anne Frank wrote while in hiding but hadn't planned to visit her hiding place...  I didn't want to know too accurately what it was like or to... well... sniffle in public.  Going there as a designer, however, gave me a distance, a more analytical place to stand, which made it easier. The site is very moving.

It must have felt like living in a submarine, I think, with its tight, dark, airless quarters and its constant presence of too many other people.  Claustrophobic.

One unexpected realization, for me, is that while Anne's and the other many many deaths of the Holocaust remain a tragedy of unimaginable size - impossible to realize - by the time I exited the building, the publication of Anne Frank's diary feels like a small victory.  One Anne would appreciate.

This play feels daunting...  It needs to be done well.


  1. Clare, glad you went there; a good review! coby (not so anonymous!)

  2. Dear Anonymous Coby,

    It was a great visit - I'll very excited (and nervous) to get to design this show. But what a weird coincidence - I get to Amsterdam every 25 years!