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Inaugural Anne Frank Project Promotes Genocide Awareness

Drew Kahn, professor and chair of the Theater Department, wonders what Anne Frank—who would have turned 80 this year—would think about genocide in today’s world. Kahn hopes to engage the Buffalo State community in such a discussion with the Anne Frank Project, an inaugural daylong conference on September 11.

The Anne Frank Project builds on the Theater Department’s mission of social change and diversity, which burgeoned in 2006 with the production of The Diary of Anne Frank. The play updated the classic story by weaving the horrors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide into the Holocaust of World War II. Two “Annes” were cast, one Jewish and the other Tutsi.

The project will gather speakers, artists, scientists, and writers to comment on and artistically interpret genocide as a recurring global tragedy. Events include hands-on workshops, presentations, theater and dance performances, a panel discussion with genocide survivors, and a keynote speech from Hilary Eddy Stipelman, program manager of the Anne Frank Center USA in New York City.

Opening ceremonies begin at 9:00 a.m. in Warren Enters Theatre in Upton Hall. Workshops and performances will take place throughout the day across campus and are designed to relate to the 2008–2010 academic theme. Related events will continue into the evening at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall. A variety of faculty members from the School of Arts and Humanities will also deliver presentations and performances. Events are free, but reservations are recommended by September 4.

Kahn hopes faculty and staff will consider bringing their classes to one or more of the day’s events.

“This project serves as a litmus test for social responsibility,” he said. “Just as Anne said, ‘How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,’ I think the day’s events will give students applications for making a difference. My thought is, if you can’t explore the most difficult of experiences on a college campus, where can it happen?”

In June, the SUNY Office of Diversity and Educational Equity awarded Buffalo State a $9,000 Explorations in Diversity and Academic Excellence Award. The money will be used to create a visual dedication to the Anne Frank Project on campus. Kahn is working with Campus Services to create a brick walkway and sitting area in the quad on the east side of the Savage Building.

The Theater Department also applied to the Anne Frank Center USA to receive a horse chestnut sapling from the tree that resides behind the secret annex in Amsterdam, where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis. The center will award saplings to seven institutions at the end of September.

“The horse chestnut tree was Anne’s connection to nature while in hiding,” Kahn said, “Between the Anne Frank Project and the outdoor display, we hope to show the Anne Frank Center that we’re ready for a long-term commitment to educate the community about ending violence, bigotry, and genocide.”

Partners of the 2009 Anne Frank Project include the Equity and Campus Diversity Office, the School of Arts and Humanities, the Theater Department, the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo, the Anne Frank Center USA, the Buffalo News, Re-Tree WNY, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.