<bt>Daniella Kallmeyer graduated from Churchill this month, but she continues to learn a powerful history lesson. Starring in Bound4Broadway’s production of “Parade” this weekend, Kallmeyer said the play is unlike any other she’s been part of in seven years of theater.
“It’s definitely the deepest plot I’ve ever been part of,” Kallmeyer said. “I’m going to walk away from this having learned so much.”
“Parade” debuted on Broadway in 1999, based on the 1913 murder trial and lynching of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-raised Jew who moved to Atlanta, where he owned a factory. Frank was accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl working in his factory, a trial widely considered the first “trial of the century,” sensationalized in newspapers nationwide, and tainted by anti-Semitism, racism and furious locals demanding “justice.”
Jim Slaton, then the governor of Georgia, believed that Frank did not receive a fair trial, and in 1915 commuted Frank’s death sentence to life imprisonment. A mob of citizens from Marietta, Ga. broke into the prison where Frank was incarcerated, kidnapped him and hanged him the following morning.
Producer Suzanne Reiman now lives in Potomac, but grew up in Atlanta. “If you’re a Southern Reform Jew, you know this story,” Reiman said.
Reiman found that many people in the Potomac area were unfamiliar with Frank’s story. “People are much better educated about discrimination against black people than anti-Semitism towards the Jews,” she said.
MOST PERFORMERS in Bound4Broadway’s “Parade” are high-schoolers — but not all.
“I think it’s made us more aware, and kind of like adults,” said Alexa Lazerow, a Julius West sixth-grader in the play.
Her twin sister Sasha Lazerow adds, “It’s not one of those silly shows that doesn’t mean anything.”
The Lazerow twins and all their fellow cast members learned biographical information about the characters they played when rehearsals began in January.
“It’s easier to connect with the characters because they’re real,” said Samantha Messerly, a Wootton ‘04 graduate who plays Sally Slaton, wife of Georgia’s Governor John Slaton.
Sally Slaton helps persuade her husband to grant Frank clemency. She has to do so out of the public light, however. “She can’t really speak out, because back in those days, women didn’t have much say,” Messerly said.
Playing a black man in this era poses similar challenges for Quince Orchard junior Jeremy Lee, who plays Newt Lee, who was also accused of the murder. “I’m used to playing characters that are very vocal,” Jeremy Lee said. “[Newt Lee] is a guy who’s very nervous around whites … trying to keep his emotions on the inside.”
HARD HISTORY LESSONS may not seem like fodder for an entertaining musical, but Kallmeyer believes the realism of “Parade” can reach an audience. “If the audience members have gone through hard times … they will feel for this musical,” Kallmeyer said.
In its own way, the play can be uplifting. Carly Ball, a Richard Montgomery sophomomore who plays Essie. “It’s a play about human weaknesses, but it shows the strength of people through the hardest of times.”
“THE MUSIC IS to die for,” said Reiman.
Broadway agreed. “Parade” received the 1999 Tony Award for Best Score with songs including “This is Not Over Yet” and “Feel the Rain Fall.” The music is written by Jason Robert Brown, who wrote for “The Last Five Years” and “Songs for a New World.”
“None of the songs have less than four harmonies,” said Kallmeyer. “It’s bone-chilling.”