While “Parade,” the musical about the 1913 trial and lynching of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, is playing, Ford’s Theatre has designed a series of discussions on the themes of the play.
Working with several artistic, historic and civil rights organizations, the theater is launching four evenings, all on Mondays at 7 p.m., that will focus on diversity, race relations, tolerance and activism.
The general goal of The Lincoln Legacy Project is to follow Lincoln’s moral stands,and to present forums that clear the air on what are still hot-button issues. “In this climate everything gets masked. There are code words,” said Paul R. Tetreault, director of Ford’s. He’s received hate mail through old fashioned scribblings or immediate e-mails about “Parade” and the panels.
On October 3 Chris Matthews will moderate “E Pluribus Unum: Seeking Unity, Respecting Diversity,” with Congressional leaders. The specific guests have not been announced.
On October 10 Cynthia Tucker will moderate “Jews and Race Relations in the South” with playwright Alfred Uhry and historian Eli Evans.
Tucker won a Pulitzer Prize for her columns for the Atlantic Journal Constitution, the now blended newspapers that at the time had consistent coverage of the case and connections to some of the principals.
On October 17 Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer winner for The Washington Post, will anchor a discussion called “Fanning or Diffusing the Flames: How the Media Influences the National Dialogue on Difference.”
“The answer could be both,” said Tetreault. “We are trying to get thinkers for this panel. We are not interested in a shouting match. We have to have a tolerant and listening dialogue.”
On October 24 Operation Understanding D.C., a youth group that brings together Jewish and African-American high school students, will hold a discussion called “And the Young Shall lead Us,” for their generation.
“Young people are going to help us get over,” said Tetreault. “Racism is not a big issue to this generation. There is a greater acceptance of each other.”
Tied to the Legacy Project are several other events, the theater announced Tuesday.
On October 1, a staged reading of “Anne and Emmett” by Janet Langhart Cohen, will be held at Ford’s at 2 p.m.
Arts on the Horizon will stage several programs of “Drumming with Dishes” a 30 minute play without words for ages 1 through 5 about differences. The show will be at the Atlas Performing Arts Center October 10-15.
On October 18 at 7:30 the D.C. Jewish Community Center will host a screening of the PBS documentary, “The People v. Leo Frank.”
On October 22, also at the Atlas, storyteller Bill Grimmette will appear as Frederick Douglass in a program for young children called “Tales of My Friend Mr. Lincoln” at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
Also on October 22 at the Atlas, a workshop called “City at Peace DC: What is Tolerance?’ will be held for ages 14 and up.
The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is presenting a Youth Summit on October 23 at Ford’s. Also, the JHSGW is sponsoring additional programming on the Frank case. On September 18 the group is hosting a luncheon with speaker Dale Schwartz, the lead attorney who secured a posthumous pardon for Frank. Details of how to participate are available through the JHSGW.org.
Advanced reservations for the events at Ford’s are available beginning September 12 at Ford’s Theater.
The main cosponsors of the events are Theater J, the D.C. Jewish Community Center; the Anti-Defamation League; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; the Atlas Performing Arts Center; the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington; the NAACP, D.C. Branch and Operation Understanding DC.
The lead underwriter is Ronald O. Perelman, who donated $500,000. “He wanted this to be about tolerance on all issues, under the broadest umbrella, not just about anti-Semitism. And we could not have done it without his leadership gift,” Tetreault said.