PERRYSBURG — As the country is still processing the recent tragedy involving the Pittsburgh Synagogue, the Perrysburg Musical Theatre is creating a safe space for candid dialogue.
A collaborative effort with the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, the theater group is presenting a talk-back discussion panel following the upcoming showings of the Tony-Award winning theatrical production “Parade.”
The play will be featured at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Due to the production’s plot, the theater company is recommending that audience members are 14 years of age and older. Julie Bermudez, artistic director, said that production is not commonly performed due its intense plot.
“I believe it’s the first time it’s been done in Northwest Ohio. It isn’t as commonly performed but it is a favorite show among musical theater people,” Bermudez said.
The play tells the true story of a Jewish employer named Leo Frank, who was convicted and later exonerated for the murder and rape of a 13-year-old female employee. Bermudez said that the incident occurred during a historical time in which anti-semitism was at an unfortunate peak.
With racial tensions brewing, Frank was later lynched after the commutation of his sentence.
“There’s a lot of meat to this story. It’s very complex and it’ll make the audience go up and down with emotion. It’s a lot. There’s a lot of heavy materials within … especially with the recent tragedy at the Pittsburgh synagogue,” Bermudez said.
She said the Jewish federation has been a great contributor and support network.
“The Jewish federation has been a huge support for us with telling the story. With the recent shooting, these issues are now in everyone’s faces. We’ll be talking about racial tensions, politics and social media, as well as theater.”
Bermudez described the panel as being a “multi-faith talk back.” She said that panelists of different religious affiliations will be present, including Episcopal priest Jeff Bunke, who will moderate the discussion, and Rabbi Samuel Weinstein. Cast members will also join the panel, discussing the relevance of their characters within today’s society.
Bermudez said that this particular musical is unusual due to its educational and social value.
“We want to use it as an educational piece which is apart of our theme at PMT. We want to share people’s stories.”
Bermudez concluded that the theater company hopes to create a safe space for those attending the panel to freely speak.
“We hope that we’re being responsible about it and providing a space for conversations that unfortunately still need to be had.”