Parade of Emotions

by Amy Blain

A past tragedy carries a timeless message as another summer season comes to the Corn Stock Tent.

Selecting the plays to comprise a season at Corn Stock Theatre involves a balance of material that is both entertaining as well as thought-provoking. With the arrival of its 64th summer season in 2017, such a task was once again set before Corn Stock’s play selection committee.

When prospective director Deric Kimler—a performer you may recognize from a range of community theatre stages over the last decade—presented the 1998 musical Parade for inclusion in this year's season, his goal was to tell a story that he feels needs to be told.

Mixing It Up
A two-time Tony Award-winning musical, Parade is a tragic story based on the 1913 trial of a Jewish factory manager named Leo Frank. It takes place in Georgia and centers around race, anti-Semitism, bigotry, and the dangerous hunger for justice during a time of tragedy.

"I believe that history should be told as truly as possible, no matter how dark or light the subject matter may be,” Kimler says. “We owe it to those in our past—and to those in the future—to try to remind people not to repeat our mistakes. This isn't a fun show, but it is one of our most important shows."

When asked about the decision to include Parade in the 2017 summer season, Chip Joyce, chairman of the play selection committee, had this to say: "With a season full of mostly tried and true, happy and lighthearted classics already on the slate, there was a definite place for a show like Parade. It is a darker, heavier show based on a true story, and it comes with very high pedigree: its book and score both won Tony Awards.

"This show has also yet to be produced in the Peoria area,” Joyce continues, “so the opportunity to be the first company to produce it locally held great appeal as well. For patrons who want some sort of frame of reference, you could compare it to a title like To Kill a Mockingbird, in terms of its flavor and content. It contributes greatly to rounding out the variety that Corn Stock likes to offer patrons every season, and is sandwiched between two ‘fun and happy’ musicals: Bye Bye Birdie and Thoroughly Modern Millie."

Shaping History
Parade is about a horrendous crime, and a community looking for action right away. The police investigation is questionable, and the prime suspect is one of the most vulnerable people in the community. Meanwhile, a perfect storm is brewing. The local media begins to fabricate stories in order to sell more papers, the main character's attorney is retiring, and the prosecutor is a young man trying to make it big and head to the city, seeing this as an opportunity for his big break.

After a parade of corruption, anger and false accusations spirals out of control, the Governor tries to save the main character. When a mob known as the “Mary Phagan Riders” breaks into the prison and takes matters into their own hands, the resulting events shape Georgia's history for years to come. With another season of diverse programming underway, it’s going to be a great summer under the tent in upper Bradley Park. a&s

Tickets to Parade are available at the Corn Stock box office, by calling (309) 676-2196 or at cornstocktheatre.com, where a new online ticketing system launched earlier this year.

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