Lauren Hansen is a junior news track journalism major and writes "Lauren's Lookback" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously hug each other as I did when I left University Theater after seeing the opening night of Ball State Department of Theatre and Dance’s production of the musical “Parade.” This production of the musical written by Alfred Uhry, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, is directed by Professor of Theatre, Beth Turcotte.
“Parade” is a true story about a trial that took place in Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1900s. Leo Frank (Lincoln Clauss) is a Jewish factory manager who is wrongly convicted of murdering an employee of his, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Courtney Martin). Leo’s southern wife, Lucille Frank (Giselle Drake) has to stay hopeful as she battles people like Hugh Dorsey (Shea Pender,) the determined prosecutor, and Britt Craig (Brian Sweeney,) the journalist that will take anyone’s word as truth for a good story.
The simple dark backdrop is activated by huge shadows cast by the actors that turn their characters into animated evil. During especially grim scenes the lighting turns blood red, soaking everything onstage to highlight the savagery in this unfortunately true story. The pastel-colored period costumes of the southern townspeople are eerily bright and joyful until they are spattered by the red light that is the violence in the community. The whole aesthetic is cheerfully terrifying. Like “Music Man” meets “The Crucible.”
This production has so many pivotal characters, that are played by equally talented actors, that contributed largely to the message of this show. Clauss takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster as he goes back and forth in between the suffering outcast and the wicked villain that the townspeople made him up to be. Drake’s stunning performance inspires the audience and brings beauty into the dark world of the play. Pender portrays the lead antagonist as the once all-american man whose malevolent behavior, along with Sweeney, pokes and prods our empathetic souls.
Turcotte’s direction sweeps the audience into a hurricane that makes the two-hour long show feel like two minutes. The pace is pretty fast so emotions are flying. In a single scene, laughs and smiles can quickly morph into hackles and evil grins. She puts the topic of discrimination in our country under the microscope and allows us to examine how we have been living our lives: have we been the problem or the solution?
This show is for everyone who has ever had society take liberty from them because of who they are. It is a musical wake-up call. See it with friends and family, but also take a chance and go with someone who you think needs it. Just make sure you have someone to hug after.
You can catch “Parade” in University Theater Sept. 27 through Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 2 at 2:30 p.m. For tickets, go in or call the University Theatre box office at 765-285-8749 or order online at bsu.tix.com. They are fifteen dollars for Ball State students and staff and eighteen dollars for the general public.