In her first semester at Pomona College, Grace Campos ’22 found herself commuting into Los Angeles with her Colonial Latin America textbook in one hand and a script in the other. Campos, a professional actor, is performing the role of Anne Frank in the limited return of “The Diary of Anne Frank” at 3 p.m. on January 20 at Dorie Theatre at The Complex (6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles).
Campos, who is from New York City, started acting at the age of 7 after she saw her godsister perform in a Broadway play. “I knew that was what I wanted to do,” says Campos. She begged her mother to allow her to try it. Since then, she’s performed in shows, including in 2012 she performed in the original Off-Broadway cast of “Freckleface Strawberry The Musical,” a play based on the children’s book series by Julianne Moore. “Acting is such an amazing outlet for me to express myself.”
“'Freckleface Strawberry' made me fall in love with acting. It’s about a young girl being bullied and it showed me that acting is more than reading lines: It can have an impact beyond what you see at surface value,” says Campos. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is especially important to her because of its social meaning, she says.
Campos first heard of the famous play’s Los Angeles production, directed by Stan Zimmerman, before she even arrived at Pomona College. Zimmerman told the Los Angeles Times that his production is based on the 1997 adaptation by Wendy Kesselman, but with a predominantly Latino cast. Zimmerman was inspired by a Jewish woman in Los Angeles who helped house an immigrant mother and her daughters after her husband was deported.
The play felt serendipitous to Campos, whose background is both Jewish and Mexican. Campos sent in an audition tape from New York and was offered the understudy roles for Anne and Margot (Anne’s sister). She adds that the director, the cast and crew were incredibly flexible in scheduling her rehearsals so that Campos could participate in her orientation activities at Pomona in her first week in California.
“Immigration is an important issue for me,” says Campos, adding that some of her Mexican family is of mixed immigration status. In New York, Campos participated in marches in support of the Dream Act and she’s done research projects on immigration policies for high school classes. “I’ve always found school strengthened me as an actor, because I learned a lot from my classes. I know what’s going on and that gives me the context I need.”
After arriving at Pomona this past fall, Campos enrolled in Professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies Gilda Ochoa’s ID1 course, Chicana/o-Latina/o Los Angeles, as well as Professor April Mayes’ Colonial Latin America course. Campos’ interest in Chicana/o and Latin American history has only grown, and she says she’s considering majoring in Chicana/o-Latina/o studies.
“Our ID1 course focused on the often-overlooked Chicana/o-Latina/o histories, inequalities and communities in greater Los Angeles,” says Ochoa. “Grace was a crucial member of the class, and I always appreciated her critical insights. She skillfully connected the past with the present in her papers. Seeing her during class discussions – including the time students performed theatre of the oppressed in class, I expect that Grace's performance in the play will be excellent.”
Being part of the production has also made her feel more connected to the Jewish part of her identity, Campos adds. “Through this outlet and through the show, I’ve connected with the history. We’ve gone to the [Los Angeles] Museum of the Holocaust together as a cast and it’s made me feel connected to those experiences.
“I would love for people to come see it, it’s a really moving production,” she says.
“The play is so beautifully and tragically written. In the beginning there was a lot of press from alt-right media trying to stir up controversy, but there’s no changes made to the original script – just a cast of predominantly Latinx actors – the audience draws their own parallels.”