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September 23, 2011 — The 2011-12 University of Virginia Drama Department season kicks off with the epic American musical "Parade." Directed by College of Arts & Sciences drama professor Robert Chapel, the production will be presented in the Culbreth Theatre from Oct. 6-8 and 12-15 at 8 p.m.
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Alfred Uhry, (whose other works include "Driving Miss Daisy") with music from Jason Robert Brown, one of the most acclaimed composers on the contemporary theater scene, this Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of one of the most infamous trials of the 20th century.
"Parade" is based on the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man convicted of murdering young factory worker Mary Phagan in 1913 in Atlanta. It's a gripping depiction of the mob mentality that demands someone to blame in the name of justice, contrasting the deadly power of prejudice with a love story packed with lessons that transcend eras.
When Frank is accused of the murder on the day of the Confederate Day Parade, he finds himself facing impossible odds when it comes to justice. He is a Jewish man from the North, making him an instant target for prejudice and the victim of a bloodthirsty mob mentality that found people bent on vengeance at the expense of the truth.
Featuring a score that combines pop, folk, R&B and gospel influences, "Parade" is a murder mystery, courtroom drama, love story and reminder of the deadly consequences of prejudice.
Chapel said the complex show is a perfect fit for a story that is rather naturally operatic in its scope and power.
"This is an epic in the true sense of the word," Chapel said. "It's a story that transcended its time and had lasting impacts on our society by playing a role in both the formation of the Anti-Defamation League and in the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. So when theatrical producer and director Hal Prince first went to Jason Robert Brown about doing the show, he said he wanted to create an American opera."
The operatic elements go beyond the story itself, Chapel said. "The music is employed not for its melodic value, but for its ability to set a tone and to drive the narrative. In that way it is far closer to opera than it is to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Between the pure power of this story and this uniquely modern theatrical style, I think the audiences are going to find this to be an incredibly interesting evening."
The combination of its modern feel and timeless lessons makes the show a great fit for his student cast members, who have completely immersed themselves in their efforts, Chapel said.
"I have been really impressed with the amount of research our actors have taken upon themselves to do. In fact, many times during the Heritage season last summer, I would see the actors in our leading roles holed up with a book or research materials about the case in an effort to better understand what motivated their characters."
The Drama Department season continues with "Troy is Burning," by U.Va. fourth-year student Matthew Minnicino. "Troy is Burning" comes to the Helms Theatre from Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 3-4 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and alumni association members and $10 for students. Tickets are available online at www.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu, by calling 434-924-3376 or in-person weekdays from noon until 5 p.m. at the U.Va. Arts Box Office, located in the lobby of the Culbreth Theatre building.
Full season subscription packages for 2011-2012 are $60 for adults, $35 for students, $55 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and alumni association members, and are also available online, in person or by phone. A $3.75 processing fee applies to all online or phone orders.
Free parking for performances is available at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, located alongside the theaters.
For information about the U.Va. Department of Drama 2011-12 season, visit here.