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March 21, 2023 11:15 am

Actor Ben Platt Talks About Playing Lynched Jewish Man in Broadway Revival ‘Parade’ During Uptick in Antisemitic Hate Crimes


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A poster for the Broadway revival of “Parade.” Photo: Screenshot

Tony award-winning Jewish actor Ben Platt commented on the timeliness of starring in a Broadway play about the true story of a Jewish man whose life was ruined because of antisemitism.

“It’s sad but it’s also really galvanizing and motivating because it feels really immediate,” the 29-year-old told Page Six at the Broadway opening of the revival of Parade on March 16. “Usually, when you do a revival, you can feel a bit of separation from it. But we have little to none, which is a difficult blessing.”

The Broadway show is about Leo Frank, who was falsely convicted in 1913 of raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl who worked at the the Atlanta, Georgia, pencil factory that he managed. He was sentenced to death but when Georgia Gov. John M. Slaton discovered flaws in the testimonies from the trial that questioned if Frank was truly guilt of the crime, he commuted Frank’s sentence in 1915 to life in prison. An outraged mob then broke into the state penitentiary, kidnapped Frank and lynched him. Frank was 31 years old.

Platt, who plays Frank in Parade, said that appearing in the show has made him feel closer to his Jewish roots.

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“I think it’s allowed me to embrace whatever Judaism means to me,” the former Dear Evan Hansen star explained. “Sometimes we feel if we’re not observant or we don’t keep kosher or we haven’t been to shul in a while. That makes us disconnected from Judaism or not a good Jew or if the theology isn’t something you totally relate to all the time but for me, it’s come to be proud of the cultural and emotional and familial ways that I feel Jewish and embrace that.”

During a preview performance for Parade in mid-February, neo-Nazis harassed patrons standing outside the theater in New York City, telling them “You’re paying $300 to go f__k worship a pedophile” and “Romanticizing pedophiles, wow, Leo Frank.” Protesters also chanted, “[Leo Frank is] a Jewish pedophile” and handed out flyers that referenced neo-Nazi and antisemitic hate groups.

Jewish actress Micaela Diamond, who plays Frank’s wife in Parade, told Page Six, “I think Judaism is the oldest racism in the world and I think sometimes because of that we forget it’s still here, whether it’s right in front of us with neo-Nazis protesting in front of our theater or lurking in the shadows, in which Jews are left out of the conversation.”

She added about her and Platt starring in the show, “it’s really special that we’re the first two Jewish people to play these roles because it’s so intrinsically a part of the story. I think it’s really important and I feel lucky that we were both cast.”

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