Saturday, March 14, 2009


Farmington's Malcolm Yancey was a wrestler.

Not just a rank-and-file wrestler but a powerfully built middleweight certain to be a competitor for a Class L championship. He finished fifth in Class L at 135 pounds as a junior last year and was projected by the Pin to Win website to be one of the eight best in the state this season.

I wrote about Malcolm's wrestling exploits, interviewed him several times and worked out at Valley Fitness Center with him as he labored to make weight and get stronger.

But Malcolm Yancey decided not to wrestle in his senior season. Coach Eric Misko, who built Farmington from also-ran to one of the state's more respected programs, was disappointed when he told me the news last fall. He said Malcolm opted to concentrate on the arts instead.

Well, that's what high school is all about. Farmington High offers its students many extracurricular options and produces so many well-rounded youngsters. Students should experiment with the options at their avail if they have multiple interests, and Malcolm loves to act.

I had to know more. What would make a wrestler of Malcolm's ability and potential eschew an opportunity to stand on the podium at Bristol Central or even at the State Open in New Haven?

So on Saturday night after I thoroughly enjoyed watching and writing about the marvelous Berlin High girls basketball team's excursion to the Class M title game, I went to Farmington High with my wife. We entered the lobby and took a rare right turn into the auditorium instead of our usual left into the gymnasium.

Malcolm Yancey was playing the lead role in "The Diary of Anne Frank."

For anybody unfamiliar with the story, Anne Frank was a 12-year-old Jewish girl from Amsterdam whose family was forced to live in hiding after Hitler's Germany conquered Holland. Miss Frank, her parents, her sister and four others didn't see the light of day for well over a year as they hid from Nazi persecution.

Anne Frank died in a German concentration camp just three days before the Allies liberated it. Her mother and sister were also holocaust victims. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the war. He shared his daughter's diary with the world.

The story was a commonly told one in Jewish homes when I was growing up. It served as a vehicle for my sister and I to understand what had transpired in Europe less than 10 years before I was born. As youngsters, we took the freedom we enjoyed for granted but the story planted a seed that would send a shiver up our spines as we grew old enough to understand that freedom is no guarantee.

Malcolm played the part of Otto Frank. He played it magnificently. His passion flowed. He absorbed the pain and suffering that Mr. Frank endured. He touched my heart, particularly his soliloquy that explained what had happened to his family after Nazi's marched them out of their nest. His voice cracked with emotion as he brought down the curtain and lifted the audience out of their seats for a lengthy standing ovation.

I now understand completely why he opted to spend the winter season emoting rather than pinning.

Malcolm wasn't the only FHS athlete in the cast. Shannon DeBari, the Indians' All-Herald volleyball star, played the part of Anne Frank. She was equally magnificent. One can only marvel at her commitment, playing a fall sport at the highest level before dedicating her extracurricular winter hours to drama.

I would like to pay tribute to the rest of the Anne Frank troupe:

Katie Johnson as Anne's mother Edith
Abigail Greene as Anne's sister Margot
Christine Ogonowski as Miep, the courageous woman who supplied the family with food

Dylan Gibbs, Margaux Leigh Hamilton, Tyler Riordan and Michael Blunt played the other people who were holed up with the Franks.

Justin Lizon, Conor Brooks, Mikala Francini and Stephanie Scholoss rounded out the cast.

The play was directed by Tracy Kane. Many others contributed behind the scenes.

They touched me very deeply, and like the sensational young athletes I get to cover, proved to me how wonderful our youngsters can be.

1 comment:

Tim Breslin said...

Dear Ken,

Nice column. I thought you stated well the importance that Farmington High School places on giving kids the opportunity - without pressure - to choose from among our many challenging activities. I saw the play last night, and you hit the nail on the head - it was exceptionally well done. As a drama and sports critic, you hit the nail on the head. Tim breslin