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York College grad’s Anne Frank story is personal; he wants others to feel that way, too

Bryan Caine meets with members of the cast at Dreamwrights.

A lot of people think they know the story of Anne Frank. What they don't know, says Bryan Caine, is how it relates to them today.

The associate director for the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect USA wants that to change.

Bryan first read “The Diary of Anne Frank” as a student at York College of Pennsylvania. The 2009 graduate studied Theatre and History and picked up the book hoping to gain insight on the era.

He finished it with so much more, loving the transparency of the young girl’s experiences. 

“Anne’s story is a story for everybody,” he says. “There’s a way we all can connect to the things she is going through in the diary.”

Today, Bryan's job is bringing him back to his alma mater as part of a week-long exhibit featuring Anne Frank. It's part of a bigger initiative of York College to tell the stories of those who history neglected or erased.

Highlighting the struggles of all people

Dr. Dominic DelliCarpini, Dean of the Center for Community Engagement, sees plenty of similarities between Anne Frank and others highlighted in the College’s “York’s Hidden Figures” series.

The year-long program organized by the College’s CCE already included a special lecture on York’s race riots and featured portraits exploring Black American history created by local artist Ophelia Chambliss.

“The Hidden Figures series has uncovered both a real need and a willingness to broaden our understanding of both personal and community history,” Dr. DelliCarpini says, and it connects well with the Anne Frank exhibition taking place at the Center for Community Engagement building downtown later this month.

“The exhibit reminds us of the importance of making visible the struggles of all people to be free from fear, violence and bigotry,” he says. “We need to remember the past in order to build an environment of mutual respect today.”

Parallels to today

It’s important that people continue to learn Anne’s story, Bryan says.

“We forget that the Holocaust happened less than 80 years ago,” he says. “We can see the parallels of what happened then to what’s happening today.”

When Bryan became the Associate Director of Education-Exhibits for the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect USA, it gave him the opportunity to travel the country and teach Anne’s story to a new generation.

One of his recent stops was at the DreamWrights Center for Community Arts in York to speak to the cast of the “Yours, Anne” production.

“These are very good actors but not the best historians,” Bryan says. “We talked about the real people behind the characters and what it would feel like to live in Holland at the time under Nazi rule.”

Coming back to York

The performance is part of a larger series called “From Adversity to Advocacy,” sponsored by York College’s Center for Community Engagement, Gordon Center for Jewish Student Life, and the York Jewish Community Center. 

The events, part of the Hidden Figures series set for late March, include the performance at DreamWrights, a panel discussion following one of the shows, and a week-long exhibit called “Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank” from Bryan’s organization. 

While it allows Bryan to revisit the York College campus and connect with old friends, he’s proud of the work he can do to tell a story that first inspired him in this very community.

“York helped me become the guy that I am now,” Bryan says. “I got the skills there that gave me the confidence to move to New York, to be bold and to stake your place.”

The series of events is as follows:

  • ‘Yours, Anne’ is the play based on Anne Frank’s diary. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on March 14-16 and 3 p.m. on March 16-17.
  • A Panel Discussion following the 3 p.m. production of ‘Yours, Anne’ at DreamWrights featuring adults and teenagers from the York Community talking about overcoming adversity and being an advocate for the community. The discussion is presented by York College’s Center for Community Engagement, DreamWrights, the York Jewish Community Center and the York College Gordon Center for Jewish Student Life.”
  • Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank – An exhibit discussing Anne’s life from her birth to her death at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It jumps forward to the present, telling the stories of young people today. The exhibit runs from March 18 to March 24 with a public opening reception at 7 p.m. on March 18 at the York College Center for Community Engagement.