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Anne & Emmett: Play depicts the evil of humanity

caines | 4/25/2013, 5:30 a.m.

AAPACT raises bar with provocative conversation between two murdered teens The lives of two young people tragically cut short because of hatred and racial intolerance Anne Frank and Emmett Till have become part of the worlds conversation illustrating the worst in humankind. Frank died in 1945 at the age of 15 in a German concentration camp, her body ravaged by typhus. But her thoughts as penned in a diary during the two years she and her family were in hiding from the Nazis, were published in 1947 and became an immediate bestseller. Till was murdered in 1955 at the age of 14. He had been beaten, tortured and shot to death before his body was thrown into the Tallahatchie River by a group of white men in Money, Mississippi. But what if these two youth, who suffered and died on opposite ends of the planet, could have had the chance to share their thoughts, fears and frustrations about dreams that would never come true? That is the premise behind AAPACTs newest production Anne & Emmett, written by Janet Langhart Cohen and directed by Teddy Harrell, Jr. [AAPACTs founder/artistic director]. The play stars Shawn Burgess [Emmett], Zasha Shary [Anne] and also features Kandace Crystal, Sheldon Cohen and Tommy OBrien. We are one of only seven theater companies that were given permission by the playwright to produce this play and the only one this year thats doing 14 shows with a full cast so were quite honored, Harrell said. So much happens in this one-act play in just over 90 minutes. Its been Please turn to aapact 3C AAPACT continued from 1C both a challenge and an honor to work on it. Expanding young . . . and old minds Harrell says he thinks more youth know about Frank than Till because her diary is required reading in public schools. He adds that some Blacks want to forget about Till because it is so painful. I think Blacks have pushed the story of Emmett Till out of their minds, but its part of our history and is something that we should never forget, he said. As a Black theater company, this is the kind of play that we should be doing. We are creating awareness about young Emmett and at the same time presenting a central character that is Jewish on our stage. The depth of this work is quite profound and is sure to touch those who see it. Both of the lead actors are in their early 20s and according to Harrell, share an incredible onstage chemistry. Zasha has been acting in South America in film and TV soaps but this is her first time on stage, he said. Shawn is a senior at Barry University where hes majoring in theater. Emotionally, they really hit the mark. As the director, my job was to help them relate to the historical essence of the play and then to let that emotional bear out on stage. Thats not an easy task for any actor but they both were able to do it superbly. The two youth meet in a place called Memory in a series of flashbacks. As they talk about what they personally experienced in their final days, they realize that their lives were not as different as one might have originally believed. This play is timely given the Trayvon Martin murder and the bombings in Boston, Harrell added. We need to begin talking again about the Holocaust, Jim Crow and the limits often placed on one set of humans by another. Anne & Emmett runs through Sunday, May 12 at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center [6161 NW 22nd Avenue]. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com