When it comes to the deeply disturbing topics explored throughout Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s 1998 masterpiece, Parade, one would think that the most qualified to pass judgement on the proceedings would be those currently in the legal profession… Which is why Theatre People was overjoyed when they discovered that this show would be the centrepiece of Bottled Snail’s 2015 line up.
Set in 1913 Georgia Atlanta around the true events of the murder of a young factory working girl named Mary Phagan, Parade tells the story of a Jewish man accused of the crime and hounded by locals. Throughout the show, again true to life, the Georgian’s patriotism for home turns into a wild case of xenophobia, and Leo’s trial becomes one that does not follow proper procedure and allows retribution and public outcry rather than justice to prevail.
Featuring a cast, crew and creative team completely comprised of people working in various legal professions, BottledSnail is a company that prides themselves not only on the strength of their shows, but also in the fact that they allow those working in one of the toughest known professions to express themselves creatively, therefore allowing their peers to alleviate the stress that so often is a large part of their professional lives. Parade seemed to be the perfect choice, combining both passion for the subject matter and excitement to bring to the stage one of the most respected scores and theatrical pieces of the past few years.
When Theatre People spoke to those involved in the production, we learned that the aforementioned goal of creating mental and emotional stability within the cast is certainly being met – though of course, rehearsals involve their own kind of stress.
“There is no denying that Parade has been a huge time commitment,” says Hadi Mazloum. “Parade isn't a chore or something 'you have to do'. (It’s) what you want to do. It therefore is not something that adds to the stress of your everyday life, it is what mitigates and relieves that stress.”
For Alexandra Sutherland, playing the principal role of Lucille Frank (devoted wife and strong voice for Leo in the face of extreme intolerance on behalf of her own kin and culture), becoming a part of BottledSnail and being given such a strong role to play has been a wonderful opportunity.
“(Being a part of) Parade has been a great way to see that there are like minded lawyers out there – it has been inspiring as a law student to see people maintain such a strong passion for performance when they are contending with a demanding career and other aspects of their life. BottledSnail’s mental health advocacy is one of my absolute favourite things about the company.”
While all of the themes of Parade seem to be in incredibly capable hands, BottledSnail are particularly interested in making sure that one of the true crimes of the Leo Frank story is properly exposed throughout their staging – the crime committed not only by the people of Atlanta, screaming for what they believed to be justice, but also the lack of such within the Leo Frank trial.
“Parade is the story of criminal injustice within the legal system of the time, and Leo is not the only victim,” says director Bruce Hardy. “Leo’s innocence will never be exposed or disproved and is maybe now irrelevant – when looking at the Leo Frank case (historically and within the context of the show) the greater crime is that Leo’s trial was grossly unfair. Joining Leo as a victim was the legal system in the south.”
Above: A promotional image for Parade.
While BottledSnail believes that the story of Leo Frank may have a particular resonance for those working in the legal profession, Aimee Nguyen, the musical director for the piece, adds that she believes that all audience members will have the ability to draw their own conclusions and will be drawn in to the story, no matter their background.
“I think the underlying themes in Parade – justice, inequality, morality – are so universal that they would resonate with anyone, whether they have a legal background or not. I hope our audiences are touched by the powerful emotion of the story, even more so because it's based on true events.”
Mr. Hardy left Theatre People with the following thought.
“The driving force behind both my own and BottledSnail’s passion to give Parade to our audience is that the story of Leo Frank is an important one. He was mistreated by justice, and that is a time in history that we are not proud of. We seem to be forgetting that, when you look at current events in Australia, especially regarding refugees and our fear of the “’other’. We need to return to these horrible moments, otherwise we will forget them… Producing this show is a way of guarding against the ignorance that led to Leo’s death.”
BottledSnail Productions will present Parade for a limited season beginning next Monday evening at the Malthouse Theatre. Tickets can be found at this link, and you can like the company on Facebook here.