Thursday, February 12, 2009

This Week Bexley Article

Gallery Players to stage 'Parade' beginning Feb. 28
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 2:08 PM
ThisWeek Staff Writer
In their next production, the Gallery Players will share the true story of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was wrongly accused of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee in Georgia in 1913.

Parade will be staged Feb. 28-March 15 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus' Roth-Resler Theatre.

JCC cultural arts director Jared Saltman said the trial aroused anti-Semitic tensions throughout Georgia. The plot stays close to the story's conclusion that the likely killer of Mary Phagan was Jim Conley, a key witness against Frank at trial.

The villains are prosecutor Hugh Dorsey -- later the governor of Georgia and then a judge -- and publisher Tom Watson, who was later elected a U.S. senator, Saltman said.

"It is probably one of the best musicals written in the last 20 years," said Parade director Frank Barnhart.

Barnhart said it is an important story in American history, and the musical maintains the accuracy and credibility of that story.

"Lots of times in theater or film, writers take liberty with the facts to change the story or alter it," Barnhart said.

The biggest challenge as a director has been finding the right balance of entertainment and sharing a story that is "quite tragic," Barnhart said.

John Schelb, who plays Frank, said he was interested in performing in Parade since he saw it on tour in 2000.

He thought it would be a good fit for the Gallery Players because of the themes of anti-Semitism, racism and political corruption.

"They are all relevant topics for today," Schelb said. "Galley was at least, from my perspective, the most logical company that would produce it."

Schelb's knowledge of Frank's story was limited to the script. By researching Frank's trial and the background of the characters, he gained a wealth of information, especially about the legal process Frank endured -- from the time of the murder until he was lynched.

Schelb said the most difficult part of the musical was putting himself in Frank's place -- sitting in jail before the trial, with a feeling of hopelessness, letting the system play out.

"The entire time he had a belief and faith that right would ultimately prevail," Schelb said.

Parade was written by Alfred Uhry, who also wrote The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Driving Miss Daisy. His great-uncle owned the pencil factory run by Frank. Jason Robert Brown wrote the music and lyrics.

Parade will be presented Feb. 28 and March 7 and 14 at 8 p.m.; March 1, 8 and 15 at 2:30 p.m.; and March 5 and 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for JCC members, $18 for non-members, $10 for senior members, $16 for senior non-members, $8 for children or students and $10 per ticket for groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased by calling 231-271 or at the door.

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