McKinney Repertory Theatre brings “The Diary of Anne Frank” to the stage

Behind the scenes of McKinney Repertory Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

McKinney Repertory Theatre "The Diary of Anne Frank"
Lynley Glickler as Anne Frank – Courtesy of Azure Photography

Like so many students around the world, Lynley Glickler read Anne Frank’s diary as part of her required reading for middle school. Years later, the Dallas-based actor now finds herself bringing the diary to life for students and adults alike when she plays Anne Frank in an upcoming McKinney Repertory Theatre production opening March 1.

“Anne Frank has a story that means a lot to so many people. Half my family is Jewish, so the Holocaust and World War II is something that carries a lot of weight in my family,” Glickler said of her inspiration for joining the theater’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” “It’s the story of the voice of a young girl living through that time…documenting everything that went on around her while she’s trying to grow up in impossible circumstances.”

Upon her casting, Glickler set about reading a less censored version of Frank’s diary compared to the one she read in school in order to find a more complete understanding of who Frank was. McKinney Repertory Theatre’s production will bring that in-depth lens to the McKinney Performing Arts Center with its performance of the 1997 adaptation of “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Wendy Kesselman that more closely follows the original text of the diary and includes more recently published additions.

Director Nathan Autrey described how this adaptation of the story delves deeper into Frank’s personal feelings amid her coming of age in the Secret Annex while still emphasizing a common theme of Anne as an “amazing mature young person who, regardless of her situation, could look around her and find positive in everything.”

“She was a light in a really dark room,” Autrey said. “She provided that light for everybody around her.”

Autrey, a member of the UNT acting faculty, explained that he came aboard the production after the show’s original director, Dr. Andrew Harris, could no longer direct the show. Autrey said he was initially hesitant to direct due to not being Jewish himself. Harris convinced him, however, by expressing his faith that Autrey could capture the heart of the story and the relationships within it.

Putting real and relatable people and relationships onstage is an essential goal for the creative team at McKinney Repertory Theatre. Autrey called upon the actors to reflect on their personal lives to inform and contextualize the intense emotions within their roles. It’s a process that’s become especially important for Glickler throughout rehearsals as she works to balance both emotional scenes and monologues in the play.

“Many moments of feeling like you’re not accepted, or you’re not seen in the way that others are seen or being ostracized for being a certain way versus another way, those are universal elements that we all deal with in different ways, and I think that was something that Lynley (Glickler) really connected to,” Autrey said.

Glickler said her own experiences as an 18-year-old during the pandemic helped her connect “to a much lesser extent” with the deep feelings of introspection and self-reflection found within Frank’s diary.

Andrea Johnson, who plays Edith Frank, said her experience as a mother of three and educator helped with her role. She related the distinct differences between Anne and her sister Margot to the differences between her own two young daughters.

Similarly, Ken Schwartz, who plays Otto Frank, said he found some conversations between Otto and his daughters to be reminiscent of ones he’s had with his children, even though they obviously occurred under significantly different circumstances. “My character is a dad, and some of those themes are pretty universal,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz has seen aspects of his own Jewish heritage reflected throughout rehearsals as well, recalling small touches and moments that reminded him of his grandparents who lived through the war in Europe before coming to the United States. Schwartz also helped ensure the play’s authenticity, assisting the cast with their Hebrew pronunciations, along with other elements when needed.

The production additionally brought in Rabbi Michael Kushnick of Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano for assistance with assuring authenticity, a crucial point of emphasis for Autrey in his direction. “He was just so, so helpful to all of us and was really patient,” Johnson said, describing how Kushnick helped her and the rest of the cast learn Hebrew prayers and Hannukah traditions.

It’s all part of what Glickler described as a “lovely and supportive” environment working on the production. It’s an environment that has helped the cast to embrace the lighter moments throughout the show. Autrey told the actors in the first rehearsal that they can’t simply “play (to) the ending of the show” and dwell in the emotional weight of the tragic events within the production.

“The remembrance of Anne is what she brought. It’s that fun, joyful sense of positivity and light, and we’re shooting for that,” Autrey said.

The shared desire to bring Anne Frank’s heart and soul to the stage while presenting and honoring the real experience of the people who lived in the Secret Annex unites the McKinney Repertory Theatre production. With the Anti-Defamation League reporting a recent sharp rise in antisemitic incidents, the team behind “The Diary of Anne Frank” looks to emphasize the dignity, joy and humanity found in this famous story when bringing it to the stage.

“If it’s good theater, it’s about humanity and (understanding) that every person is a human being,” Schwartz said.

The McKinney Repertory Theatre production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” runs from March 1-9. McKinney Repertory Theatre partnered with H-E-B to make free tickets available for students via the promo code 761DAYS. For more information, including how to purchase tickets, visit

These interviews have been edited for clarity. McKinney Repertory Theatre is an official advertiser with the Collin-Denton Spotlighter. Advertising does not guarantee coverage, nor does it affect the content of any coverage on the Spotlighter.


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