Rebecca May Ristow | Managing Editor
On February 21st, Neo-Nazi and antisemitic groups gathered outside of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre where Parade, a musical revival on Broadway, was about to open for its first preview. The show tells a dramatized version of Leo Frank, a Jewish pencil factory worker who, in 1913, was convicted of the murder of a 13-year old girl. After being abducted from prison, and being lynched by a mob two years later, his case became fuel for far-right views toward the Jewish community.
Signs at the protest linked audience members to far-right websites like the National Socialist Movement, a group primarily focused on aligning itself with Nazis and denying citizenship to Jewish, LGBTQ+, and non-white people. The Anti-Defamation League describes them as “a loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism”, Nazi logos, and affiliation with other extremist groups.
Protesters can be seen on video calling Leo Frank a pedophile, using Jewish stereotypes and expletives, and shaming audience members for buying tickets to the show. Many news outlets are commenting on the disappointing similarities between this and Frank’s real life trial, where people shouted “hang the Jew” adamantly through the windows of the courthouse. Years later, there are now significant witness accounts claiming that Frank may have been wrongly convicted, but the trial, both then and now, is used as proof of antisemitic stereotypes and justification for violence against Jewish communities.
Members of the Parade company responded with hope. Ben Platt, who plays Frank in the retelling, said, “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 additionally claimed to be grateful to be the one telling the story of Leo Frank. Prentiss Mouton, another performer, shared footage of the protest on her Instagram story, writing, “If I wasn’t proud enough to be a part of this production it was solidified today,” adding that this aided the significance of the art.
To this day, nobody has ever been convicted of Leo Frank’s murder, though the violent crime was meticulously planned. The Washington Post reported back in 2017 that the prison phone lines were cut and gas was drained from police vehicles, but attackers still escaped Frank’s lynching. The murder took place a month before the Ku Klux Klan was revived in the area and forced many Jewish communities to leave in fear.
The Washington Post puts it frankly, writing, “In January, an ADL survey found that 85 percent of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish trope — a significant increase from the figure of 61 percent in 2019.” Many believe these protests will add to the fire. Anti-Jewish claims and Neo-Nazi groups continue to stand with their ideals, but Parade stands strong as a reminder of hope.
In the company’s official statement they write, “If there is any remaining doubt out there about the urgency of telling this story in this moment in history, the vileness on display in front of our theater last night should put it to rest,” continuing, “We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night.”
For more resources please visit the Anti-Defamation League’s website at adl.org.