Shiva for Anne Frank

solo performance · rachel mckay steele · Ages 13+ · United States of America

one person show world premiere
Add Your Review


June 12, 2019 certified reviewer

What I liked

She explained how she was initially inspired by fellow female comedian, Iliza Shlesinger, who questioned the apparent lack of WWII jokes from female comedians. Not only did Rachel already have a whole slew of jokes about Hitler, but she went on to produce show that featured all female comedians telling exclusively WWII jokes. This led to the later creation of her current piece, “Shiva for Anne Frank.”

This show has pushed me to explore and delve deeper within my own queer journey. if I even have a right to claim relevance in these discussions, community, and experience.

On a more personal note, My great aunt passed away two days after seeing Rachel’s preview performance. I’ve dealt with a lot of loss in my life (as so many of us have, especially as of late); but reflecting on Rachel’s presentation of how the grief process is experienced in Judaism had helped me to find strength and comfort; I’m letting go of the idea that I somehow have to find the words to communicate this loss, this ending of an era. That it’s ok words, thoughts, feelings, or even the world and life itself doesn’t make sense right now. That, at least for a few days it’s not about putting things back together, or moving on, but taking time to sit with and acknowledge the impact, the unspeakable, the inability to explain or put words to this seemingly impossible time.

As she reminds out, this show is unfortunately relevant for so many reasons. Whether it’s political, social, sexual, historical, controversial, or personal “Shiva” doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. Anne Frank wrote about hope, desire, courage, sex, queerness, toxic masculinity, finding strength, frustrations, family, and a future we know would never come to be.

Rachel presents Anne and her diary as a tool or a lens for us to look deeper and see the consequences of not remembering. Of not learning from our mistakes. We cannot run the risk of repeating history; “Shiva for Anne Frank” calls us to do better, to take a hard look at our world and use the wisdom and experience of a teenage girl who hid in an attic for over 750 days.

What I didn't like

Not unexpected, the first preview had some technical challenges as there were a few times the projected corresponding slides were delayed. Its run time also went over a bit, but for a first time theater performance and preview show, I’m confident these hiccups will be more than remedied by the second performance.

My overall impression

“Shiva for Anna Frank” is a piece both long-overdue and distressingly relevant. It’s is insightful, passionate, funny, and educational. Rachel Steele’s take on such a monumental event as the holocaust and portraying such an important person as Anne Frank is no easy endeavor.

It’s undeniable that it would take more than a bit of ‘hutzpah’ to attempt such a feat; I believe Rachel proves to have not only attempted but successfully created a piece that both showcases her passion, the extensive research, and her years as a stand up comedian in NYC and brings a new light to Anne Frank’s life and impact on the world. The idea of portraying Anne Frank in a comedy show may make some feel a bit uncomfortable, but Rachel proves engaging, reverent, authentic, and no surprise funny!! She reminds us of how Anne was so much more than a young girl writing in a diary, she was real, perceptive, witty, imaginative, funny, and compelling writer. Full stop. Rachel shares her frustration of trying to find a single review that did not belittle her; “Shiva for Anne Frank” undoubtedly proves she was so much more than simply a young Jewish teen girl with a diary.

Was this review helpful? yes · no