Ben Platt, ‘Parade’ Producers Respond to Antisemitic Protests Outside Preview Performance: “Vileness on Display”

Ben Platt and the team behind the Broadway revival of Parade, which tells the true story of a Jewish factory worker in Georgia who was falsely accused of murdering a teenage girl and later lynched by an antisemitic mob, have responded to the “very ugly and scary” antisemitic protests that took place outside the musical’s first preview performance.

Patrons attending Tuesday night’s production at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre were met by antisemitic shouts and chants outside the venue, part of a protest led by members of the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement. (The militant hate group was the largest membership-based neo-Nazi organization in the U.S. during the 2000s, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and is known for its “violent antisemitic rhetoric.”)

More from The Hollywood Reporter

Those demonstrations were initially captured on social media by theatergoers, including The Forward engagement editor Jake Wasserman, who shared video of protesters hurling jeers, including claiming that the musical’s subject, Leo Frank, is a “pedophile.”

“If there is any remaining doubt out there about the urgency of telling this story in this moment in history, the vileness on display last night should put it to rest,” the musical’s producers said in a statement Wednesday, in response to the demonstrators. “We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night.”

In its own statement, Actors’ Equity echoed similar sentiments, saying, “There is no place for hate in our streets or our workplaces” and that the presence of antisemitic protestors at the members’ workplace “only underlines how important that work is.”

Parade — which has a book by Tony-, Oscar- and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown — dramatizes the true story of Frank, a superintendent at the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, who was kidnapped from prison and lynched in 1915 after having been convicted two years earlier of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old girl suspected of having been raped before being murdered at the factory where they both worked. The mob’s murderous actions followed Frank’s death sentence being reduced to life in prison. Frank has since received a posthumous pardon by the state of Georgia and his conviction has been widely accepted as being based on false testimony driven by growing antisemitic hate in the early 20th century South.

In separate Instagram statements, Platt and Micaela Diamond — who portray Frank and his wife, Lucille, in the musical — shared that they learned of the protests after their performance had concluded, and they were attempting to celebrate the work of their crew and the show’s 18 Broadway debuts.

“I got offstage and was looking at social media and naturally, the news of the fact that there were some protesters at our show had spread a lot and that’s kind of the stamp on the evening in terms of the public perception of the evening,” he said in a two-minute video, in which he noted neo-Nazi protesters “from a really disgusting group” were outside the theater, “spreading antisemitic rhetoric” about Frank to patrons.

“It was definitely very ugly and scary, but a wonderful reminder of why we’re telling this particular story and how special and powerful art, and particularly theater, can be,” he added. “[It] just made me feel extra grateful to be the one that gets to tell this particular story and to carry on this legacy of Leo.”

Diamond spoke to the dual experience of celebrating the ensemble’s efforts bringing Frank’s story to theatergoers while being met with modern-day antisemitism, with incidents reaching an all-time high in 2021 according to data published by the Anti-Defamation League. “Somehow,” she wrote in her Instagram story, the musical’s company was able to hold both “massive celebration and raging disappointment” in the same breath. “What a reminder of how important this story is. I can’t wait to tell it again and again,” she continued. “We will speak for you Leo.”

Platt added that the Jacobses and theater owner the Schuberts had kept the company “super safe and secure” amid the protests, adding that future theatergoers “will be, too, when you come to see the show.” At multiple points, Platt encouraged people to attend the show and bear witness to Frank’s story.

“I just think that now is really the moment for this particular piece,” Platt concluded in his video response. “And I felt that I just wanted the button on the evening, at least for me personally, to be to celebrate what a beautiful experience it is and what gorgeous work all my wonderful colleagues did tonight, not the really ugly actions of a few people who are spreading evil.”

Click here to read the full article.