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‘Parade’ Director Calls out Antisemitism, Transphobia at Tony Awards – The Hollywood Reporter


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Parade director Micheal Arden addressed the rise of white supremacy and antisemetism within the U.S. while accepting his win for best direction of a musical at the 2023 Tony Awards on Sunday night.

Taking the stage at the United Palace in New York’s Washington Heights, Arden dedicated his lengthy speech to “the battalion of people who made Parade and who bring it to life so beautifully and terrifyingly every night.” He then pivoted to the larger conversation around the themes of the show, which tells the story of a Jewish man and factory worker in Georgia in the early 20th century who was falsely accused of murdering a teenage girl and later lynched by an antisemitic mob.

Parade tells the story of a life that was cut short at the hands of the belief that one group of people is more or less valuable than another and that they might be more deserving of justice. This is a belief that is the core of antisemitism, of white supremacy, of homophobia, of transphobia and intolerance of any kind. We must come together,” Arden said.

He went on to add that “we must battle this,” telling the Tonys audience and viewers that it’s “important,” otherwise, “we are doomed to repeat the horrors of our history.” He then shouted out the LGBTQ community, particularly its trans and nonbinary members, amid a wave of anti-trans legislation in a number of states.

“To our beautiful trans, nonbinary queer youth: know that your queerness is what makes you beautiful and powerful. Everyone in this room sees you and needs you, and we will fight alongside you and we will win,” he said before CBS would ultimately bleep out his next statement. “Growing up, I was called the f-word more times than I can remember, and now I’m a f***** with a Tony!

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“Keep raising your voice, standing up against intolerance of any kind, anywhere you see it,” he concluded. “Keep them loving and uplifting each other, standing up for each other. Continue making challenging art and vote every chance you get.”

Parade — which has a book by Tony-, Oscar- and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown — dramatizes the true story of Leo Frank, a superintendent at the National Pencil Company in Atlanta. He was kidnapped from prison and lynched in 1915 after having been convicted two years earlier of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old girl suspected of having been raped before being murdered at the factory where they both worked.

The mob’s murderous actions followed Frank’s death sentence being reduced to life in prison. Frank has since received a posthumous pardon by the state of Georgia and his conviction has been widely accepted as being based on false testimony driven by growing antisemitic hate in the early 20th century South.

Early in the show’s run, attendees entering the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre were met with antisemetic shouts and chants outside the venue as part of a protest led by members of the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement. “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 in response to the demonstrators. “We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night.” 

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Stars Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt also responded to the antisemetic rhetoric “from a really disgusting group” who were outside the theater, “spreading antisemitic rhetoric” about Frank to patrons, Platt said. “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,” he continued in a Instagram message. “[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.”

Arden was nominated for best direction of a play alongside Lear deBessonet (Into the Woods), Casey Nicholaw (Some Like It Hot), Jack O’Brien (Shucked) and Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo).

The 2023 Tony Awards were hosted by Academy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose and executive produced by both Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, with direction by Weiss. The annual event — presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing — honors theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway and were broadcast by CBS and streamed on Paramount+.

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