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2015 Murder trial the backdrop for Western’s fall theatre production




Image of Matthew Grasso, of Bethel, as Leo Frank; and Shaylen Harger, of Orange, as Lucille Frank, in 'Parade.'DANBURY, CONN. — The 1913 trial of factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted of murdering a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan, was the factual basis for a collaboration between playwright Alfred Uhry and composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown that resulted in the award-winning musical, “Parade.” The show, which opened on Broadway in 1998, won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score (out of nine nominations) and six Drama Desk Awards. “Parade” had a U.S. national tour and numerous professional and amateur productions in both the United States and abroad.


The Western Connecticut State University Department of Theatre Arts will present “Parade” during two weekends in November in the MainStage Theatre of the Visual and Performing Arts Center (VPAC) on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. Performances will be at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13, 14, 20 and 21, 2015; with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 14, 15, 21 and 22, 2015. Tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/parade-tickets-17831130391 or by calling (203) 837-8732.


Director Tim Howard, new coordinator of Western’s Musical Theatre program, acted in the Broadway National Tour of “Parade” under director/producer Hal Prince and Brown, who served as music director for the tour.


“I fell in love with the score and found the script extremely compelling and moving,” Howard said. “After acting in this production, I wanted to have a chance to direct a show that had a major influence in my professional theatrical life for more than a year. Based on a true story, this show is a courtroom drama that deals with anti-Semitism and racial issues, but ultimately is a heart-wrenching love story — a thoroughly compelling story with a stunning score.”


Howard’s first production in the MainStage Theatre at Western will take advantage of the performance venue’s strengths.


“The show spans 50 years, so I’ve incorporated reenactments of the Civil War in the opening sequence and through special lighting effects made it more cinematic,” Howard said. “The MainStage at the new VPAC is huge, which works beautifully for the epic nature of the piece. However, the seating is actually quite intimate, which allows me to bring some of the storytelling right into the audience. I think it will be thrilling to be an audience member experiencing this production.”


The cast includes D’Jarious Allen, of Danbury; Michael Battista, of North Haven; Jen Bavone, of Oakville; Thomas Bergamo, of Wolcott; Jillian Caillouette, of Meriden; Alana Cauthen, of Bridgeport; Nathan Clift, of Trumbull; Dan Dressel, of Middlebury; Kevin Durkee, of Orange; Sam Everett, of Kent; Eric Gomez, of Prospect; Matthew Grasso, of Bethel; Emily Gray, of Southington; Shaylen Harger, of Orange; Becca Hayes, of North Granby; Jeffrey Jannitto, of Hamden; Gabriela Jimenez, of Danbury; Megan O’Callaghan, of Norwalk; Justin Pesce, of Waterbury; Nick Raines, of Brookfield; Jessica Schwartz, of Brookfield; Lloyd Simmons, of Danbury; Jared Starkey, of Columbia; Connor Thompson, of Ledyard; Noah Todd, of New London; Joelle Tshudy, of Belvidere, New Jersey; and Sydney Varick, of Waterbury.


The production team will include Howard, who will direct and serve as co-choreographer with Elizabeth Parkinson; Musical Director Thomas Cuffari; Assistant Director Frankie Marcille, Dramaturg Jeff Jannitto, Stage Manager Brionna Ingraham; Production Manager Claire Gaudette, Set Designer Paulo Seixas, Costume Designer Irene Thelen; Lighting Designer Scott Cally; and Zach Charles on sound. Pam McDaniel is producer and Frank Herbert is Technical Director.


For tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com/e/parade-tickets-17831130391 or call (203) 837-8732.



Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics
of New England’s best small private universities.