"Parade" brings controversial topics to DePauw University stage


On April 26, 1913, a thirteen-year-old girl was found assaulted and dead in Atlanta, Georgia. The death of Mary Phagan lit a fire under theunexpressed tensions in the community, and a man, Leo Frank, fell into the hands of the Southern lynch mob. Frank, who was abducted from his prison to face a tragic punishment, was a migrant Jew from Brooklyn, New York. He acted as superintendent of the National Pencil Company, where Mary worked and eventually faced her brutal end. Between Frank and two African-American men, Newt Lee and Jim Conley, the courts indicted and wrongfully convicted Frank—largely on circumstantial evidence. 

The case of "The People vs. Leo Frank" and his subsequent lynching became a hotbed for many social issues troubling America: anti-Semitism, racism, distrust of outsiders and the disparity between the North and South reaching back to the Civil War.

Nearly 80 years later, the story of Leo Frank and the court trial became the subject for Jason Robert Brown’s and Alfred Uhry's musical “Parade.” DePauw Theater and the School of Music, with the support of the Prindle Institute for Ethics, will present “Parade” October 9-12.

Many students have felt disconcerted and even agitated by the media presence of the production, including the posters and display case featuring the Confederate flag and noose. These are symbols of our historic America, whose issues continue to plague our society. The appearance of such strong images strikes our secluded community, but these images are meant to stir up discussion. Over 100 years later, we still challenge the American identity. “Parade” begs the questions: How do we define our community and ourselves? What does it mean to feel at home?

To discuss the intellectual elements and social issues embedded in “Parade,” a panel discussion will take place on Friday, October 3 at 11:30 a.m. The panel will include Tim Good, Steven Linville, Beth Benedix and Vince Greer. The panel will be open to students, staff, faculty and the community to discuss the issues that troubled the South in 1913 and continue to afflict the country. 

-Anna Gatdula, Class of 2015