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The reverend and rabbi who consulted on Broadway’s ‘Parade’ reflect on their experience this season

(L-R) Rabbi Joshua Stanton and the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis

A reverend and a rabbi walk into a Broadway show. The cast and crew are offstage, grappling beautifully with questions of identity, exclusion and the ongoing struggle against white supremacy — both in the production and in real life. Some are horrified to play racists and antisemites in the show, but feel called to tell the story of Leo Frank, whose lynching by a white supremacist mob in Atlanta spurred the creation of the Anti-Defamation League and other civil rights and Jewish organizations. The trauma of playing victims or perpetrators in the show is real, but so, too, is the importance of telling a timeless story that is remarkably timely.

In the words of the show’s associate director, Matthew Johnson Harris: “‘Parade’ rises to meet the moment.” So did Harris, along with the musical’s director, producers, cast and crew in elevating the production itself to a process of shared redemption for everyone involved. They invited us into the “‘Parade” family as interfaith consultants to reflect upon the pain inherent in playing each role, while keeping in mind the wider mission that this play has in the world at the intersection of art and activism. It was also important for us to help the company cope with the terrifying surprise of protests by white supremacists — the sort also depicted onstage — while contending with the painful content in this prophetic play and the practicalities of putting it on.

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