Chapter 16: “Now They’re Gonna Pay Attention” - A Postmortem on “Parade”
Hey friend! Sorry about the unannounced hiatus from blogging (you probably didn’t even notice or care, but STILL). But I’ve mentioned this enough times in this blog alone for you to be like “LUCIEN, I GET IT!” and click off. But I simply can’t stop talking about this. I’m literally in euphoria whenever I even think about it, let alone speak about it. After so much time spent off the stage performing in anything, I’ve spent the last month portraying “Riley” in Kean University Theatre Conservatory’s production of “Parade”. Under the phenomenal direction of Daniel Kutner, me & this talented cast I was apart of brought the tragic (& true) story of Leo & Lucille Frank to life. Last night, it all ended. Here’s my “postmortem”:
This show is set in Atlanta, Georgia during the times of the Confederacy. A Brooklyn-raised Jewish man named Leo Frank gets wrongfully accused of the rape & murder of Mary Phagan, a thirteen year old girl employed at the factory he manages. Throughout the play, the audience is taken through the emotionally driven trial and the horrific aftermath. This is a white man, by the way. I mention this because this story is set in the times of the Confederacy, so there’s elements of racism that is explored briefly. There’s a part in the story where all of the black people in the cast get together to, basically, take the audience on a detour to explore the hypothetical “would anyone care if black people were involved”.
Notice how I haven’t mentioned the year this story is set in yet. I did this on purpose. I would have this discussion with so many people without mentioning the year just so people can see the relevance of this story. This story is, and I say this with the utmost confidence, one of the best stories we could’ve told. I don’t think many people comprehend how important this story was to tell. Literally ten days before opening night, I was on Twitter and I saw this post about this young black man named Danye Jones who was lynched in his mother’s backyard in Atlanta, Georgia. This play takes place in 1913-1915 in Atlanta, Georgia, we are literally a month away from 2019, and this STILL goes on today. Like I said, there was no other story we could’ve told that wasn’t THIS necessary and important.
If you do not know anything about me, hi. My name is Lucien and I am a young black man who was type casted in a racially specific play. On top of that, it’s a HIGHKEY racist play. So my appearances in the show were pretty limited, which upset me a lot if I’m being honest. However, it gave me a lot of downtime to get to know myself as a performer, as a character (that didn’t really exist), and as a person. However, I was not by myself on the sidelines. One person I would really like to mention is my fellow co-star, Chris. In the conservatory, there isn’t that many young black men. Chris knew this already. Literally one of the first things he said to me was “We “black brothers” gotta stick together.” But I don’t mention him solely for the color of his skin & how we related. There was one time we were both waiting around during rehearsals and I decided to share part of a one-act play I wrote for class. I knew he wants to become a playwright, so I thought it’d be beneficial for me to get feedback. The conversation that took place because of this opened my eyes wider than we both intended. We started to talk about religion, Heaven/Hell, “seeing God”, and so many existential things surrounding that. It unconsciously became a usual thing with me and Chris to sit down with each other to talk about nothing and everything with each other. By closing night, our dressing room became a safe haven not only for us two, but for anyone who needed it. There, everything was sacred, valid, explored, analyzed, laughed about, etc. In this short period of time, I found a big brother in Chris. That’s something I simply can’t take for granted.
There’s a lot to speak on with my experiences with Parade, but I just want to condense it into the following sentiment: At first, I thought my return to the stage would be frightening and foreign. In actuality, it was like I never left.
With all that said, I would publicly like to give my thanks to all those involved with "Parade". Thank you to all of my beautiful friends and family who came out to support us, especially those whom I didn't expect to see at all. An even bigger thank you goes out to those whom you would never get to see because they're too busy building the show from the ground up (my buddies at the lights, at the sound board, in the orchestra, building the sets, making/handling the props, doing the research, making the costumes, dressing us, doing our make-up, etc.) Also, a COLOSSAL thank you to the flawless Matt L. (musical director), Michele M. (choreographer), Travis (stage manager), Adalhia & Corey (assistant stage managers). An EVEN BIGGER thank you to my beautiful cast for making my first college production the best experience I've ever had onstage. AND THE BIGGEST THANK YOU to Daniel Kutner, our director. Thank you for trusting us with this important task. Hope your boss loves it and I hope we made you proud.
Sincerely Yours Sometimes,
PS: SONG OF THE WEEK: Kendrick Lamar - ELEMENT
(Every time I post, I will include a song that may or may not correlate with the topic I write about. This is me thanking you for reading my posts by gifting you with good music.)