Controversial musical “Parade” hits the stage next weekend

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Julie Strauser and Joey Leppek
portray Lucille and Leo Frank, repsectively
in DePauw Theatre's performance of "Parade,"
a musical based on true events that tackles
controversial topics of race and anti-Semitism.
COURTESY OF DEPAUW UNIVERSITY

While the GCPA seems to be turning out plays and recitals at every turn, it’s not every week that one brings up so many controversial topics on campus.

Next Thursday through Saturday students will put on “Parade,” a musical that takes on many controversial topics including anti-Semitism and racism in an early 1900s southern United States.

Students have been working on this show since April and May of last year when casting started. Parts were to be learned over the summer, working until the show’s opening on October 9.

Parade is about Leo Frank, a Jewish man from New York who moved to Georgia after being given a superintendent job at a pencil factory. It follows Frank from the years 1913 to 1915.

On Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia, there is a big parade celebrating pride for the soldiers who fought in the civil war, but the occasion takes a turn for the worse.

While the parade is happening, the body of a 13-year-old girl is found in the basement of the pencil factory, identified by Frank as Mary Phagan.

The remainder of the show follows Frank after being accused of killing the Phagan, featuring his time behind bars as well as his trials.

His wife Lucille, however, has faith of his innocence, and goes on a hunt to prove that the witnesses in the trials were coerced and coached to frame Frank.

What sets this show apart from other musicals performed by DePauw students is that this one is completely based on true events.

Leo Frank was an actual man accused of murder in 1913, and the performance spares no event or occasion.

“I would have to say that my favorite part about this show is the history that it tells,” said junior Yazid Gray, who plays the role of Jim Conley in the show.

The costume choices are made based on the clothing worn in the period, as well as the set design.

“What I love about Parade is every time I watch it at rehearsals I feel something,” said junior Laura Loy, one of the assistant stage managers, who is in charge of running the fly system.

Senior Benjamin Ramos—Assistant Music Director, Music Dramaturge, and Piano Number Two of the show—thinks the show can bring something new to the students at DePauw.

“It’s been a very eye opening experience,” Ramos said. “As a minority, racism and discrimination are aspects of my life I have dealt with but not in a large quantity like this. The show allows people to see real injustices that go on in the world.”

“There are so many aspects in the show that are relevant to the way today's society works,” Gray said. “I feel as though the only way to move forward is by understanding where we are coming from, and that is something Parade does.”

The display case in the GCPA is already starting a buzz around campus, with the inclusion of early 1900 southern symbols such as the Confederate Flag and a noose.

“I put display case together,” Ramos said. “It’s cool to see how this has already had an impact on campus.”

Loy hopes it will make students question their ideals and get people engrossed in the performance.

“You can't go to this show without empathizing with characters, without feeling something,” Loy said. “I think that's what people can expect, they aren't just going to go to this show and walk out untouched.”

Gray holds similar feelings about the show.

“I hope people come to the show with an open and thoughtful mind,” Gray said. “These are really strong and emotional situations. I feel like the show will open people's eyes to history and how far we have come, but also how far we have to go.”

The actors and directors of the show will be holding a panel this Friday at 11:30 a.m. called “The People v. Leo Frank.” It will be held in Moore Theatre in the Green Center for Performing Arts and will discuss the controversial topics brought up in the musical.

The performances are next Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in Moore Theatre as well.