“Parade”, a musical about the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jew convicted of murder in 1915 Atlanta, opened 9/23 at Ford’s Theatre, beginning its “Lincoln Legacy Project” to encourage tolerance, equality, and acceptance.
The musical won Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, by Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy”), and for Best Original Musical Score, by Jason Robert Brown, among the nine nominations for “Parade”.
In Ford’s production, Euan Morton, best known for portraying Boy George in “Taboo” on Broadway and London’s West End, stars as Leo Frank.
Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jew, was convicted of murdering “Little Mary Phagan”, a 13-year-old employee of Atlanta’s National Pencil Factory that Frank managed.
The day before Frank was to be executed in 1915, Georgia’s governor commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. Soon afterward, a mob kidnapped Frank by breaking into the prison hospital near Milledgeville, GA where he was recovering after an inmate slashed his throat. The mob drove Frank more than 100 miles to Phagan’s hometown, Marietta, and hung him from a tree. Frank, aged 30, became the only known Jew to be lynched in America.
A janitor at the pencil factory had been arrested when he was seen washing blood off his shirt. The janitor, Jim Conley, admitted writing two notes that had been found beside Phagan’s body. However, Conley’s perjured testimony helped convict Frank – one of the few times a southern black man’s testimony had been used to convict a white man.
Historian Leonard Dinnerstein, author of “The Leo Frank Case” (University of Georgia Press), wrote that one juror, before being empanelled, had been overheard saying, “’I am glad they indicted the G– damn Jew. They ought to take him out and lynch him. And if I get on that jury, I’ll hang that Jew for sure.’”
Almost a century later, the production of this southern-gothic-Greek-tragedy is a fitting start for Ford’s five-year Lincoln Legacy Project. For the full program of events, click www.fords.org/lincoln-legacy-project.
Here are some highlights of the project’s events relating to “Parade”, which runs through October 30:
- Facilitated discussions for interested audience members immediately following each evening performance of “Parade” (except September 26 and 27). These 20-minute discussions will be led by a trained facilitator and a special guest invited to address a specific related topic or theme.
- In October, a series of free events will address topics related to the issues surrounding the 1913 Leo Frank trial as dramatized in “Parade”. Events include a staged reading of a one-act play “Anne and Emmett” by Janet Langhart Cohen (October 1 at 2 PM.); Monday evening panel discussions with topics including “E Pluribus Unum: Seeking Unity, Respecting Diversity” (October 3 at 7 PM.); “Jews and Race Relations in the South” (October 10 at 7 PM); “Fanning or Diffusing the Flames: How the Media Influences the National Dialogue about Difference” (October 17 at 7 PM). Free tickets available at www.fords.org.
Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated, is one of the nation’s most historic and famous theatres.
For more info: Ford’s Theatre, www.fords.org, 511 10th Street, NW, Washington, DC. 202-347-4833. “Parade”, www.fordstheatre.org/event/parade. Lincoln Legacy Project, www.fords.org/lincoln-legacy-project.