ELEVATED | Miep Gies, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and a Musical Farewell

05/29/14 | By More

“More than twenty thousand Dutch people helped to hide Jews and others in need of hiding during those years. I willingly did what I could to help. My husband did as well. It was not enough.”

 

– Miep Gies, in Anne Frank Remembered

HOLOCAUST HEROINE – Miep Gies, who cared for the Otto Frank family when they were in hiding in Amsterdam and preserved Anne Frank's diary, will be portrayed by Colorado actress Judy Vinnick at a benefit for the Ouray County Historical Museum. (Courtesy photo)

HOLOCAUST HEROINE – Miep Gies, who cared for the Otto Frank family when they were in hiding in Amsterdam and preserved Anne Frank’s diary, will be portrayed by Colorado actress Judy Vinnick at a benefit for the Ouray County Historical Museum. (Courtesy photo)

Miep Gies lived to be one-hundred years old, and though she was referred to as a hero often over her lifetime, she invariably insisted she was not.

It was difficult to believe her. Miep had worked for Otto Frank’s Nederlandsche Opekta company for nine years and become good friends with his family after the Franks fled Nazi Germany for Amsterdam. One day in 1942 – this was after the occupation of the Netherlands and around the time Jews were being required to wear an identifying yellow Star of David on their clothing – Otto Frank asked Niep a favor. He had decided to take his family, and another family, into hiding in the rear annex of the offices on Prinsengracht.

“He took a breath and asked, ‘Miep, are you willing to take on the responsibility of caring for us while we’re in hiding?’ ‘Of course,’ I answered. There is a look between two people once or twice in a lifetime that cannot be described by words. That look passed between us.”

For two years, Miep risked her own life to provide food and drink for the two families – ten mouths in all – smuggling in provisions, looking out for them and giving them years they wouldn’t otherwise have had. Giving Anne time to write her famous diary. (Giep captured the young diarist’s writerly intensity after accidentally walking in on her: “She had a look on her face I’d never seen before – of dark concentration, as if she had a throbbing headache. That look pierced me and I was speechless. She was suddenly another person, writing at the table. It was if I had interrupted an intimate moment in a very, very private friendship.”)

Colorado actress Judy Winnick, an award-winning educator known for meticulous research into her characters, will impersonate the Frank family’s protector in a one-act play entitled Meet Miep Gies: Beacon of Hope on Saturday, June 14. The event, a fundraiser for the Ouray Historical Society, will be held at the Historic Western Hotel. Winnick has portrayed other characters for the museum before, said museum associate Kate Kellogg, “from an immigrant girl turned mining-town prostitute to Irena Sendler, the woman who rescued Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. She truly brings them to life.” Rosemarie Pieper, co-owner and chef of Ouray’s Historic Western Hotel, “came up with a Dutch-themed, full-course menu to create an authentic atmosphere for this event,” Kellogg said. The menu will include a Dutch cheese platter, Indo-Dutch chicken satay, Black Forest ham and asparagus and other hearty dishes; the cash bar will offer Dutch brews. Winnick, a member of the Colorado Humanities/Chatauqua Speakers Bureau, traveled to the Netherlands in her preparation for her portrayal at the Historic Western and met with several people who knew Gies well. After the Franks were taken away by the Nazis, Gies returned to the family’s apartment and retrieved Anne’s diary. She said she was glad its eventual publication, by Otto Frank, had done such good in the world, but wished every day that the family had survived, instead. For years, she refused to read it (“I couldn’t re-live the miseries, and I wouldn’t rekindle the terrible losses”). By the time the diary was headed for a third edition, Gies finally sat down to read. She devoured it without stopping: “From the first word, I heard Anne’s voice come back to me from where she had gone…she was alive again in my mind.”

Tickets to Judy Winnick’s portrayal of Miep Gies and the Dutch-themed evening at the Historic Western are $60. Seating is limited; call the OCHS (970/325-4576) for reservations.

Jazz and ‘Goodbye’ in Ridgway

The Kevin McCarthy jazz trio plays the Sherbino Theater Friday evening in celebration of the retirements of the Ridgway Schools’ music teacher, Kathryn Kubinyi and third grade teacher, Robyn Cascade. The concert is also a fundraiser for one of the causes Kubinyi is passionate about: Colorado Ambassadors of Music, the group of high school singers and musicians who travel to London, Paris, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy each summer to perform in parks and cathedrals. In addition to their musical concerts, the students get a crash course in international geography and make lasting friendships. Toni Cotton, who traveled with CAM to Europe as an adult participant (“not really a chaperone”) with her French-horn-playing son, Kyle, called the trip a once in a lifetime opportunity. She praised Kubinyi for bringing unique musicians – such as an African drummer – in to the community, and helping young musicians get out to the wider world. “She gave her heart and soul to the kids and was always there for them,” Cotton said. Admission for tonight’s event is $5. The Kevin McCarthy Jazz Trio features Mike Enriquez on bass, Chris Goplerud on drums and McCarthy on guitar. Light snacks will be provided, and there’ll be  an open cash bar. All profits will be donated to Colorado Ambassadors of Music, Europe Tour for the RSS and Ouray Band Students. The concert is from 7-10:30 p.m.

Much Ado Auditions

Shakespeare in the Park is in its 23rd year in Telluride, and this season’s production is one of the Bard’s most popular and enduring comedies, Much Ado About Nothing. Auditions for Much Ado are this Friday and Saturday, 5-8 p.m., at the Palm Theatre (meet in the lobby). All ages and levels of experience are welcome; 15-20 actors are needed. Please familiarize yourself with the play and be prepared to spend 20 minutes or so reading from it. Callbacks, if necessary, will be held on Monday. Rehearsals begin Saturday, June 14; performances are July 19-26. Call 970/708-3934 for more information.

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