Last weekend I picked up and drove to L.A. like the independent, grown-up college girl I am. It really doesn’t cease to amaze me that I can just decide to take a trip like that that involves my own solutions to transportation and entertainment and sleeping arrangements. We got there and Disneyland was sold out (what?) and then ended up driving around for two hours trying to decide where to eat (let’s be honest, life was rich when my parents planned all that; being independent just means having more things fall through because you’re still learning to be aware).
The real reason for driving twelve hours (besides the discovery that my parents would also be in California that weekend) was to see the Donmar Warehouse production of Parade, a musical by Jason Robert Brown. The musical is the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man living in Atlanta, Georgia who gets accused of murdering a little girl who is found dead in his pencil factory.
The cast recording of this production is incredible and included almost all of the dialogue, so I went into the show knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. Call it premature, but by the time the lights went down and the overture started, I had already burst into tears. Seeing this fantastic show reminded me once again why I do what I do and why I’m pursuing this theatrical insanity that will be full of almost-guaranteed rejection the whole time I’m in the business.
Why do these ordinary-ish people just play-acting in a curtained room with a couple of lights and a story to tell, touch me so? Parade is an incredible and incredibly tragic story. Leo Frank was initially found guilty, but thanks to the strong will and perseverance of his wife, who is loyal to him even when he treats her with impatience and disdain, the case is reexamined, and his sentence is changed from the death penalty to imprisonment for life. Despite that triumph, in the end, Leo is dragged from his cell and hung to satisfy a mob.
For obvious reasons this show was painful and emotional to watch, but even with an ending that left me wanting; wanting injustice to die, wanting Leo’s wife who he’d only just come to appreciate to have him to hold in her arms for forty more years, wanting redemption. And yet, in the midst of all that wanting and sorrow, I felt uplifted and understood the atonement more poignantly than ever.
Seeing Parade increased my already ardent testimony that the Lord imparts his spirit on men and women inclined toward and gifted in expression outside of the church, as well as in. He doesn’t just care for us here, now and he doesn’t exclusively communicate in a very finite set of stories to a very finite group of people. He’s been communicating through art and theatre and literature throughout the ages to give all his children, even in its smallest measure and piece of his love for them and of his plan for their redemption and happiness.
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat: So
I did sit and eat.
(George Herbert, 1633)
To be a part of this exploration and expression of the Spirit and the struggle and the strain that Christ will one day relieve is undoubtedly a part of my life’s mission, and I look forward to pressing onward with it.