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Ben Platt Speaks Out Against Anti-Semitic Protests of Parade on Broadway

Parade musical
Bruce Glikas/WireImage/Getty Images

Platt said the incident is "a wonderful reminder of why we're telling this particular story and how special and powerful art and, particularly, theater can be."

(CNN) — Audiences at the first preview of the Broadway revival of Parade, a musical about the dangers of hatred, were met by a group of anti-Semitic protesters, who gathered outside the theater before the show, said Ben Platt, a Tony Award winner who stars in the musical.

Ultimately, though, the group's presence only reinforced that "now is really the moment' to perform this show, Platt said in a video on Instagram.

Platt, who plays Leo Frank, a Jewish man who faced anti-Semitic hate in 1900s Georgia, said the protesters harassed audience members on their way into the theater and said hateful things about Frank, "spreading anti-Semitic rhetoric that led to this whole story in the first place."

Playbill reported that the protesters "carried signs with hateful rhetoric," shouted at audience members waiting to enter the theater and attempted to hand out fliers.

"It was definitely very ugly and scary but a wonderful reminder of why we're telling this particular story and how special and powerful art and, particularly, theater can be," Platt said in the video. "And it just made me feel extra, extra grateful to be the one that gets to tell this particular story and to carry on this legacy of Leo."

Parade follows the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent in Georgia who was accused and eventually convicted of murdering a young factory employee in 1913. Though Frank maintained his innocence throughout his trial, he was kidnapped from prison and lynched by a mob. Per the New Georgia Encyclopedia, his trial was a "miscarriage of justice" fueled by anti-Semitism in the South, among other social issues.

Platt noted that security at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre kept the cast and audience members safe during the protests.

"I just wanted the button on the evening, at least for me, personally to be to celebrate what a beautiful experience it is," he said. "Not the really ugly actions of a few people who are spreading evil."

Parade producers shared a statement on Instagram condemning the anti-Semitic protests.

"If there is any remaining doubt out there about the urgency of telling this story in this moment in history, the vileness on display in front of our theater last night should put it to rest," they wrote. "We stand by the valiant Broadway cast that brings this vital story to life each night."

Anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise in the last few years, hitting an all-time high in 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL reported earlier this year that 85 percent of Americans believe in at least one anti-Jewish trope, which the organization said can lead to violence against Jewish people. Celebrities including Kanye West and Kyrie Irving have shared anti-Semitic posts on social media, and former President Donald Trump dined with West and White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes late last year.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who leads the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed by a White supremacist, told CNN last year that it's not on victims of anti-Semitic hate to battle it alone.

"It doesn't end with anti-Semitism," Myers said. "From anti-Semitism, it moves on to another minority group and another minority group until there's no one left to call out because all of the groups are no longer around."

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