Curious how to celebrate MLK Day now that January 17 has passed? This year, EF teamed up with the Anne Frank Center USA to live stream a theatrical performance, Letters from Anne and Martin, to an audience of students, teachers, and school administrators. Developed from excerpts from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, this piece showcased the universality of the human experience as the legendary figures wrote of their hopes and plans for a peaceful and unified world.
If you weren’t able to watch the virtual event live, see below for a clip of the performance. Feel free to share this video with your class and use it as a jumping-off point to hold your own conversations around the Civil Rights Movement, the Holocaust, and the importance of remembering the historical events that continue to shape our world today.
The event also featured a Q&A between the audience and actors Rachel G. (Anne Frank) and Cassagnol L., Jr. (Martin Luther King, Jr.), which was facilitated by the Anne Frank Center’s Alexandra G. Keep reading for an excerpt that has been edited for length and clarity.
AG: What was your process in portraying these two figures from our history?
CL: In preparing for embodying Dr. King, my greatest resource was watching his various interviews. I stemmed away from his speeches and great, pastoral orations so I could get a feeling of how he would speak on a regular basis, and to get to the essence of Dr. King—the serious-yet-captivating individual that was very bright, and also passionate and fiery.
RG: We have lots of photos of Anne, but we don’t have any video footage of her speaking, so it’s a slightly different approach to getting into character for her. But similarly, I reread her diary a number of times. Something I think about a lot is that I was a petulant teenager at one point, trying to figure out what was going on with my body, and my relationships, and things like that with my family—and we see Anne also just living through girlhood, albeit in this very strange and horrible situation. So I think I draw on some of my own experiences as much as I can.
AG: What new discoveries did you make in this rendition of the performance?
CL: I think the hope was very resonant this time around, especially toward the end. You know, going through the hardships that are existing in both Anne’s life and Dr. King’s life, and just feeling that throughout all these dark experiences, we still have hope, we still have this dream, we still have this drive to fight for something so meaningful. And doing this performance, I was definitely feeling like, “Yeah, we’re getting to something like this. It’s happening. We’re embarking on this blossoming journey.”
RG: I think what’s incredible about both of these two people is their capacity to remain hopeful in really dire conditions, and imagining a world better than that.
AG: Cass, from the extensive research you’ve done on Dr. King, can you share a sense of how he was viewed in the U.S. public eye when he was alive?
GL: In the U.S., it’s interesting, because it depends which viewpoint you’re looking at. For instance, the clergymen [who criticized Dr. King after the peaceful protest in Birmingham], looked at Dr. King as a rebel, as a believer of anarchy. And it distorts who he was and what he was fighting for. When we look at the community that didn’t really have a leader at the stature of Dr. King, you know, he spoke for them, and they looked at him as almost a savior. But I think it depends on who you’re asking in the United States.
Dive deeper into Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings and legacy on EF tours Atlanta and Beyond: The Civil Rights Movement and African American History in D.C. & Williamsburg.