Elgin Kelley gave a memorable solo performance Oct. 9 in Living Voices’ theatrical showing of Through the Eye of a Friend about the Holocaust.
Elgin played Sarah, the fictionalized friend of Anne Frank, telling the story of Anne with WWII, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust as a backdrop. The frame of reference that informed the work was the classic book The Diary of Anne Frank.
Living Voices normally takes its shows to schools with the purpose of educating younger people about the subject expressed in the performance. In this case, Living Voices went to Fairfield Community Arts Center instead. There were still a gaggle of kids there, as well as older adults.
Educating, as a take on a theater play, informed Elgin’s approach from the beginning. She began with an informal style of giving the audience contextual information about the impetus for WWII, the formulation of the Holocaust, and Anne Frank’s life.
In a unique multi-media way, the show began. Elgin sat on a red stool to the right side of the stage as stock footage and built-in sound effects of WWII shown on a grand screen behind her. She became part-narrator and part-Sarah.
Her ability to time the different parts along with the images and sounds projected from the screen was uncanny and impressive to see. The blond-haired kid next to me, who prior to the show seemed inattentive and uninterested, was hanging on Elgin’s every word.
When asked how she prepares for such an intense role, playing a character during the Holocaust, Elgin mentioned her week of preparation. In that week, she spent eight hours a day reading The Diary of Anne Frank, watching different WWII documentaries, specifically about the Holocaust (although she didn’t offer any titles), and actually engaging with real-world survivors of the Holocaust and hearing their tales.
“Theater has made me more interested in history than any history class ever could,” she said.
Such immersion into a subject comes with a price, it would seem. Elgin spoke of how she would have nightmares for the longest time about actually being in the concentration camps during WWII.
Her emotion and historical accume certainly came together to inform her performance. She had depth, poise and a beauty in the way she portrayed the horror of history.More importantly, in becoming and portraying Sarah, she humanized the myth of Anne Frank and grounded her as a human being; a human being with normal teenage girl problems (future ambitions, boyfriends and the like) that happened to go through something tragic and awful.