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The two organizations have long had a contentious relationship. Though Leopold says the Anne Frank House would never associate with commercial initiatives, it was accused two decades ago by Anne Frank Fonds of commercializing Anne after balloons and T-shirts were sold at traveling exhibitions of the Dutch group’s artifacts. The Anne Frank House said local organizers were responsible for the sales.
The fight was the first of several clashes between the organizations, which once shared exhibits and collaborated extensively. Last year, a Dutch court ordered the Amsterdam museum to return a cache of 25,000 documents lent by the Swiss organization. Both sides accused each other of blocking a more amicable resolution to the conflict.
For decades, the Anne Frank House has thrived as the leading authority in its field in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Leopold says he believes the new theater, housed in a three-story building less than two miles from the museum, will actually drive more traffic to the Anne Frank House, which he says offers a more authentic portal into the Frank story.
“You go to see ‘ANNE’ in a place which had had nothing to do with Anne Frank,” Leopold said. “It’s backdrop, a show with actors, and it is a radically different experience than historical immersion in the place where it happened, where the diary was.”
Kugelmann says he doesn’t see the theater as competition for the museum. The decision to locate the theater in Amsterdam was made because the city is so central to the story. Leon de Winter, the best-selling Dutch Jewish novelist who wrote the script for “ANNE” with his wife, Jessica Durlacher, calls the conflicts between the two groups an unwelcome distraction.
“I didn’t and still don’t care about this conflict,” de Winter said. “I only cared about materials which I have been privileged to access, but which filled me with uncontrollable anger at what has been done to a family of Jews and a writer who, at the age of 15, already had the talent, experience and clarity of a full-fledged author.”
The play is being produced by Imagine Nation founders Kees Abrahams and Robin de Levita, a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer who worked on hits such as “Chicago” and “Les Miserables.”
Audiences will arrive at the 1,100-seat theater by special ferry from Amsterdam’s Central Station. Tickets will cost between $50 and $100. “It’s important that people feel at home, that they have a good time,” Abrahams told journalists at a sneak preview last week of the still-unfinished theater. “So we made a large, lounge-like restaurant with 150 seats.”