Welcome to the Arden Theatre Company blog, where we share behind-the-scenes stories and current happenings with you. You will hear from the Arden staff as well as actors and other visiting artists, and we hope to hear from you, too. If you have an idea for a topic, please post a comment about it. We can't wait to hear what you think!
During the run of Parade, the Arden met two wonderful women with personal connections to the story. We were able to sit down with them and hear a little bit about their backgrounds, medical their experiences, and their takes on the Arden’s production.
Because of the graphic nature of the postcard depicting the hanging of Leo Frank, described by Roberta, we didn’t include the image in the video. If you would like to see the unique image on Roberta’s postcard, please click here. The postcard is property of Roberta Weiss.
By Sally Ollove, site Literary Manager Parade is based on the true story of the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan. There are a number of great resources if you want to learn more, but be warned: these resources all contain spoilers! Don’t worry, this list will still be here after you see the production.
Please be aware that some anti-Semitic individuals have also written about the case. Some have published their own conspiracy-theory centered information online, often dressing up misinformation with facts to seem legitimate. One such site to avoid is leofrank.org, which is, unfortunately, a top search engine hit for Leo Frank.
The production used The Dead Shall Rise by Steve Oney extensively. The book contains a complete and in-depth account of the case and its aftermath as well as the societal shockwaves the trial sent through the country.
The Leo Frank Case, by Leonard Dinnerstein, first published in 1968 has been updated in several editions, most recently in 2008. Dinnerstein provides a very readable overview of the case in a fair and balanced appraisal of the facts. If you want a shorter read, Dinnerstein wrote an article for American Heritage, “The Fate of Leo Frank”
In addition to the professional allure a story with such drama has for a writer, the Leo Frank case held a special place in Parade bookwriter Alfred Uhry’s personal life. His grandparents owned the pencil factory where Leo Frank and Mary Phagan worked, and his grandmother remained close to Lucille throughout her life. But no one in his family ever talked about Leo:
“Southern extended families are prone to telling stories and so are Jewish ones. Mine was both, so I got a double dose. I grew up hearing about the quirks of distant relatives, in-laws, and a whole network of people I didn’t know. They all came with stories attached.
But nobody mentioned Leo Frank. Some of the family even walked out of the room if the name came up. I found this confusing because I knew that my Great Uncle Sig had been his employer and Lucille Frank was my grandmother’s friend. Due to this hush-hush policy, I developed a fascination for the case…”
Jason Robert Brown, music and lyrics for PARADE
Composer and Lyricist Jason Robert Brown found the story equally compelling, as he found Alfred’s experiences as a Jewish Southerner. In the liner notes for the original cast recording of Parade, Brown says: “I remember…[s]itting in Alfred’s kitchen as he talked about growing up in the South. (I used a lot of his exact words when I wrote “The Old Red Hills of Home,” and Alfred always cries when someone sings that song).”
The strong personal connection with which Uhry approached the story and which Brown felt vicariously through his collaborator is everywhere in this powerful musical, in which the audience accesses the emotional life of a towns-worth of characters, from the Franks and Mary to journalists covering the trial, outraged community members, and Georgian politicians—all with real historical counterparts. As Uhry said in an interview to the Atlanta Journal Constitution: “If people are touched, I’ve done my job…..I think being “entertained” means being involved in a story, and this is one hell of a story. It’s about all these people whose lives were inalterably changed on that day in that factory during the Confederate Memorial Day Parade. Who could make that up?”
Parade runs September 26-November 3 at Arden Theatre Company