Ben Platt responds to ‘ugly and scary’ antisemitic protests of Broadway’s ‘Parade’

Actor Ben Platt and the producers of the Broadway show “Parade” have responded to the antisemitic protest that took place outside of Broadway’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theater Tuesday evening, where Platt is starring in a revival of the 1998 musical. 

“Parade” tells the true story of the trial, imprisonment, and lynching of a Jewish American man who was erroneously convicted of murdering a teenage girl in 1910s Atlanta. The protestors were from a neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Movement, according to the Forward, and they promoted antisemitic rhetoric to theatergoers waiting to enter the theater for the show’s first preview performance.

Platt addressed the protests in a video he posted to Instagram Tuesday night. 

“I got off stage and was looking at social media and naturally, the news of the fact that there were some protesters at our show had spread a lot and that’s kind of the stamp on the evening in terms of the public perception of the evening, and definitely an important thing to hear about,” he said. He explained that “neo-Nazi protestors from a really disgusting group” were bothering patrons and “saying antisemitic things about Leo Frank, who the show’s about, and just spreading antisemitic rhetoric that led to this whole story in the first place.”  

Leo Frank was the manager of an Atlanta pencil factory who was convicted of raping and murdering a 13-year-old factory employee named Mary Phagan in 1913, though legal experts then and now believe he was innocent. In 1915, a mob of people angry that his death sentence had been commuted broke him out of prison and lynched him. The event led to both the creation of the Anti-Defamation League and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. 

The theater protestors were claiming that Frank was a “pedophile” and that the play is “romanticizing” him. “You’re paying 300 bucks to go f—in’ worship a pedophile, you might as well know what you’re talking about,” a masked demonstrator handing out literature can be heard saying in a video of the protest taken by Forward editor Jake Wasserman

“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,” Platt said in his response to the protest. “[It] just made me feel extra grateful to be the one that gets to tell this particular story and to carry on this legacy of Leo.”

“If there is any remaining doubt out there about the urgency of telling this story in this moment in history, the vileness on display last night should put it to rest,” the musical’s producers said in a statement on Wednesday provided to the Forward. “We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night.”  

“Parade” first opened on Broadway in 1998. It has a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. It won Tonys for Best Book and Best Original Score. The revival is directed by Michael Arden and stars Platt as Leo Frank and Micaela Diamond as Frank’s wife Lucille. It’s in previews now and opens on March 16.

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