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'Dear Anne, From Nina' explores bonds of friendship, family

Over the past year, we've all learned to connect remotely with the wonders of technology. But in the mid-20th century, good old-fashioned snail mail was still keeping people in touch. That low-tech relationship is at the heart of "Dear Anne, From Nina," being presented on Zoom through Bakersfield Community Theatre.

The play is a coming of age tale about Nina Jensen (Darwin Wilkinson), an Iowa farm girl who starts up a pen pal correspondence with Anne Frank (Kaya Leyendecker). As Nina and her sister, Jeannie (Brooke Hollibaugh), strive to think globally while still in small-town America, Anne and her sister, Margot (Faith Thompson), find that their world is rapidly changing beyond their control.

Rob Lang and Jakub Cecil also star in the show.

Director Deva Wiloth, who also performs in the show as the Jensen girls' mom, Alice, has experience with shows tackling the Holocaust, having helmed "I Never Saw Another Butterfly," a drama about children in a concentration camp, last January.

"I find this time period in history very interesting, always have," she wrote in an email. "And I think the message behind the show is always relevant, showing that even in current times, things like this could, and do, happen unfortunately. Maybe being aware of things like this will help us stop them before they happen."

Along with the bigger issues, this play is about family and the bonds they forge. Wiloth said she loves the relationship between Margot and Anne.

"They have that classic sister relationship and it just makes me smile," she wrote.

There will be laughs and probably some tears by the show's end, the director warns.

"The very ending of the show and what we do with it, it tugs at your heartstrings, but I don't want to reveal what exactly we do. Just be ready with some tissues."

Wiloth also wants to thank the Bakersfield community, which has helped support BCT through donations and tuning into online programs.

"We so very much appreciate it! We hope to be open again very soon but until then, keep enjoying and supporting our actors, directors, techies, etc."

Rebecca Worley, the theater's artistic director, said BCT shows will remain virtual for now since live theater venues aren't supposed to open until the county is out of the tier system.

"We hope this changes and we can open sooner than that, but we will continue to follow state mandates to protect our actors and our audiences," she wrote in an email.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.