Summer Theatre's Parade Offers History Lesson and Entertainment
Wilmington College-Community Summer Theatre views its mission as one of both
entertainment and education.
Audiences attending shows through the years in WC's venerable Boyd Auditorium
can attest to the entertainment value of a well-presented story. But the
theater experience inherits an educational dimension when it challenges and
stretches the abilities of the actors and takes the audience on a journey
of insight and discovery.
The musical "Parade" promises to be just such a production. It runs July
18, 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 with an 8 p.m. curtain time in Boyd Auditorium.
"Parade" is the tragic, true story of the trial and lynching of a man wrongly
accused of murder. In 1913, Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jew living in Georgia,
is put on trial for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, a pencil factory
worker under his employ.
Already guilty in the eyes of most, his only defenders are a governor with
a conscience and, eventually, his Southern wife, who finds the strength and
love to become his greatest champion. Uhry's script features a dark look
at the nuances and history of the South.
"It's not simply a story about a crime and trial. It's the story of Leo and
his wife, Lucille-it's an extraordinary love story," said director Steven
Haines, noting the title "Parade" is the result of the girl being killed
during a parade honoring Southern traditions and the soldiers who fought
for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
"The parade is a symbol of what the South was at the time," he said. "It's
a metaphor for where that society was in 1913-and how it was changed by the
Among its many challenges, the show asks the audience to look at the power
of the press and the polarizing role it played in the Frank case. William
E. Peelle of Peelle Law Offices in Wilmington, said it was a famous case
of irresponsible journalism that "fanned the flames of public emotion" in
Atlanta. Peelle and fellow attorney Dan Buckley, of the Cincinnati law firm
Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, used the upcoming production of Parade as
a focal point for encouraging support of the summer theater program among
the local legal community.
"This is a prime example of the pen being mightier than the sword," Peelle
"People not supplied with the truth can be persuaded to react in ways they
might not have otherwise reacted," he added. "This can happen when people
in positions of influence begin to make decisions based on emotion and the
popularity of the public tide of the era and move away from the professional
commitment to fairness, neutrality and providing objective information to
Murder, prejudice, sensationalism, a lynching-could this be the fodder for
an enjoyable summer evening at the theater? Absolutely and by all means!
"Parade" is a two-time Tony Award winner for its daring, innovation and boldness
in looking at the complex dynamics of an extraordinary moment in history.
It won six Drama Desk Awards and received the New York Drama Critics' Circle
Award for best musical of the season.
Haines explained that Broadway "visionary" Hal Prince took on the project
of directing "Parade" with the expectation it would be another of his contemporary
musicals reflecting theater's "new drive." Prince secured the highly regarded,
young composer Jason Robert Brown to write the music based on Alfred Uhry's
("Driving Miss Daisy") script.
"Of the generation beyond Stephen Soldheim, Jason Robert Brown is one of
the most significant composers," Haines said. "I was completely taken with
the music when I first heard the score for Parade. It's such an emotionally
The director said the College-Community Summer Theatre has evolved to the
enviable point at which it can "explore a newer repertoire" of shows with
a core group of "talented and committed" actors that return year after year.
"We have developed a very strong reputation as far as production quality
and performance level. We do things that go far beyond the scope of most
community theaters," he said. "One of the reasons I think we are as good
as we are is we do these productions that challenge the performers-and our
audience has grown along with us.
"I think part of the reason people go to the theatre is to experience something
new, and we've educated our audience to expect something new," Haines said.
"As much as the audience loves them, we can only do so many "Hello Dollies,"
"Music Mans" and "The Sound of Musics." It's much more fascinating to take
a look at newer works than to always return to the standard musical theatre
repertoire-at one time or another, we've hit all the biggies," he added.
"We as actors and the direction staff find the biggest challenges and rewards
in doing these newer pieces and the audiences really seem to respond very
well to the challenges that are inherent in the contemporary works."
Haines encourages potential audience members to make reservations before
the show opens because "Parade's" run is limited to six performances. "So
often people hear by word-of-mouth how good a show was the opening weekend
only to find out the second weekend has sold out by the time they call for
tickets," he said.
Reservations are available by contacting the Theatre Box Office at (937)
382-6661 ext. 267 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and noon and 1 to
5 p.m. Tickets also can be purchased at the box office, which is located
in the Fine Arts Building at Wilmington College.
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