PITTSBURG, Kan. — If all the world truly is a stage, theater teacher Greg Shaw would like to remind potential audience members that the world isn’t just fairy tales and fantasy.

With two successful years under his belt at Pittsburg High School that included the popular productions “Seussical” and “Beauty and the Beast,” Shaw and his students have begun a concerted effort to include in their playbill not just selections that entertain, but also those that educate and promote open dialogue on social issues.

“We want our students to be exposed to quality, thought-provoking material,” Shaw explained.

For theater-goers this year, that means not only a PHS stage production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” slated for Nov. 13-16, but a companion exhibit from the Anne Frank Center USA that will be open to the public starting today and running through Nov. 21 in the commons area at PHS, 1978 E. Fourth St.

The exhibit, which is free to the public, consists of 17 panels that include an introduction, end credits, thematic panels, photographs and text that combine to tell the painful, poignant story of Anne Frank’s brief life.

The panels tell the story of the events that led to the girl’s flight in 1933 from Germany to the Netherlands, as well as the growth of Nazism in Germany, the invasion of the Netherlands and life under Nazi rule.

Photos from the Frank family album are combined with historical images from the period, as are entries from Anne Frank’s diary in which she describes her life in hiding and her impressions of the events taking place outside of the “Secret Annex.”

Rhonda White, PHS counselor, said it’s an opportunity for the community and young people to see and understand what happens when discrimination goes unchecked. “By educating young people, we empower them to speak out when they see individuals being bullied, discounted or mistreated,” she said.

Each visitor to the production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” will receive an identification card describing the experiences of people who lived in Europe during the Holocaust. Designed as small booklets to be carried during the play, the cards help visitors to personalize the historical events of the time.

“The source material of the play may be 63 years old, but the topics and reminders of both hate and tolerance are relevant today,” Shaw said.

And, as the last of the Holocaust survivors pass on and genocide is experienced through history books and literature, rather than first-person accounts, the world of Anne Frank as portrayed via theater becomes more important.

“When combining the words and emotions into a theatrical experience, it becomes more real, and there is a greater investment by the audience than just reading the book or seeing a movie,” Shaw said.

He predicts that audiences will have a greater understanding as to the sacrifice and hardship the characters endured at the hands of others.

It also will be an opportunity to witness the power that simple kindness can have on people — how one person truly can make a difference.

Or, in this case, a cast of young people and one director.

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