The Red Deer Players Society is gearing up for their latest production of Twelve Angry Men with performances running June 11th-20th at the Scott Block Theatre.
Curtain is at 8 p.m.
Directed by Lori Lane, the play concerns the deliberations of the jury of a homicide trial. At the beginning, they have a nearly unanimous decision of guilt, with a single dissenter of not guilty, who throughout the play sows a seed of reasonable doubt.
“When Red Deer Players was formed, the timing was actually perfect for me to get back into theatre,” explains Lane, who had been actively involved with Central Alberta Theatre a number of years earlier in several capacities. “Directing was my primary thing.”
She took a break following the birth of her son, what with the demanding rehearsal schedules and time commitments that theatre demands.
But as mentioned, when the formation of Red Deer Players was announced, Lane knew it was time to get back in the local theatre community and directing a play was at the top of the list. “The timing felt right. So I got involved and indicated an interest in directing something for them. They asked me to come up with a few options, and there were two or three I had in mind, but this is the one that I really wanted to do.”
Twelve Angry Men was first made as a 1954 teleplay by Reginald Rose for the Studio One anthology television series, and was aired as a live CBS Television production on Sept. 20th, 1954. The drama was later rewritten for the stage in 1955 under the same title.
It was rewritten again in 1957 as a feature film which Sidney Lumet directed, and which starred Henry Fonda. It was nominated for several Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing of Adapted Screenplay.
Lane also recalls seeing a movie version done back in the 1990s featuring George C. Scott and Jack Lemmon, which really sparked her interest. “Really what it is, is that quality of the script, the ‘meatiness’ of the matter, the challenge for all of the actors and in turn what that meant to me in terms of challenge as a director. To try and coach the actors through that process of creating these very real characters and the emotions and everything they go through as they deliberate in that room.”
Last fall, the selection was officially made and Lane and her team began preparing. As she noted, this play is also unique in that the 12 actors portraying members of the jury are all onstage for the entire play. Everyone has to be ‘on’ all of the time, which is in itself a demanding thing for the cast. Besides the spoken lines, every facial and bodily expression counts at all times. And as Lane pointed out, that requires a truly singular ‘team’ effort from the actors, who have absolutely lived up to the demands of the script, she said.
“This is the only play I’ve ever done where that core cast of 12 is onstage from start to finish. I can’t think of a show I’ve ever been involved with in 30 years of doing theatre that has been like that,” she said. “That in itself is a unique challenge.”
Another interesting thing about this play is that we never know any of the characters’ names. “Jurors are referred to by their juror number, and the defendant is only known as ‘the kid’ or ‘the boy’ – we never know his name.”
Lane said the realism of the story shines through so strongly because Twelve Angry Men’s writer, Rose, had served as a juror in a manslaughter trial before penning the classic. “It was his fascination with the whole process that made him think this would be a really good piece of theatre. He wrote it true to the way it really works.”
She also added that she and the cast have done plenty of preparation of their own to heighten the sense of realism. “We also had the opportunity to meet with someone who was a foreman on a jury in a real murder trial, and we devoted some rehearsal time in talking with him about what it was like, how the deliberations went, and about the personalities in the room and how it felt – the whole experience.”
Twelve Angry Men is indeed a play of drama and intensity, which has fueled its status as an enduring film and theatrical production. And working with a fine and very capable cast has made the production that much more of a joy, said Lane.
“They’re the strongest group of actors – overall – that I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “And one of the nice things about having a cast onstage the entire time is that every single actor is needed for every single hour of every single rehearsal. So you have to come together – it’s a team.”
As for directing, she loves seeing the overall vision of a given story come together for the stage. “It’s the whole big picture and seeing that vision come to life.”
Tickets for Twelve Angry Men are available at the Black Knight Ticket Centre by calling 403-755-6626 or visiting www.blackknightinn.ca.