Santa Fe High junior Sage Merriam has played Anne Frank before, in a school production of The Diary of Anne Frank. This weekend, however, she tackles the role from a new perspective in False Witness: The Trial of Humanity's Conscience (7 pm Thursday Sept. 12-Saturday Sept. 14; 2 pm and 7 pm Sunday Sept. 15. $15-$25. The Swan, 1213 Parkway Drive, 629-8688), a new original play which casts the audience as the jury in the trial against Adolph Hitler and Merriam in the role of the prosecutor—Anne Frank. She'll do courtroom battle against the likes of Martin Luther and Henry Ford, plus other historical figures, and by the end, new questions might arise about what we know and who is responsible for the Holocaust.
Why did you want to play Anne Frank again? What's this role like?
I think it shows a lot more of her strength than the previous show I was in. In the Diary of Anne Frank, we look at a lot a the relationships she has with her family and her friends. Then we transition into this play, and we get to see the strength of a more grownup person, the anger you don't see a lot. Obviously, with the tragedy that happens in her family, she has to have some pent up emotions …
What did you do to prepare?
I think, first of all, it's easy to drop into the side of it that's just a prosecutor. Anyone can be a prosecutor, but I liked the idea of how [Anne Frank] is connected to the whole thing. She's not just bringing a random perspective, it's very specified, there's a reson she is prosecuting. We also learned a lot about the building of the case. What happened a lot was that me and the person playing the defense counsel, we'd forget our lines because we didn't understand how the case was being built, so we went into that whole idea of how prosecutors and defense [attorneys] have to work around what they actually want to ask. There's so much to think about.
Did you learn anything unexpected? Will the audience?
Absolutely. When I first read it, I had no idea that the figures in this show were so anti-semitic. We bring in various characters from history, and the most shocking example for me was Henry Ford. It's discovered as the case builds that he founded a newspaper that spread anti-semitic propaganda, and with every car he sold, there'd be this newspaper included—a manual that explained why the Jews were the world's problem. And he produced up to 30,000 cars per week.