TWELVE ANGRY JURORS theatre review

by Dick Kerekes
The Drama Department of the South Campus of Florida State Collage of Jacksonville, presented a four performances of Twelve Angry Jurors. This was an adapted version of Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men which debuted in the l950s. Sherman Sergel did the adaptation which includes female members of the jury. I have seen the original play several times . The one most recently performed by Orange Park Community Theatre 2 or 3 years ago. The excellent movie version, made in l957, with Henry Fonda is frequently played on cable TMC channel. It is available on DVD through the Jacksonville Public Library.
One of the reasons this play has endured over 50 years, is the result excellent writing, and a story that is as true today as when it first appeared on TV as a teleplay. A boy is accused of the murder of his father, and all the evidence seems to be overwhelming that he is guilty. As the play starts only juror # 8, feels he is not guilty and votes that way. As the play develops, the evidence is examined more closely, motives of the individual jurors are also examined by everyone.
Professor Ken McCulough, is the head of the theatre program at South Campus. His selection of this play gave a number of actors in the theatre program and opportunity to play very challenging roles. In addition, the subject matter is as civics lesson in itself.
Scenic/lighting Designer Johnny Pettegrew and Scene Shop Supervisor Robert Rupp along with the students in the technical theatre program gave the actors a wonderful setting to work in. The play is set in a hot August day in l962. Costume Designers Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles captured the flavor of the early 60s, especially in the ladies fashions.
What I like about this play is that it is very much of an ensemble effort. I suppose you could say juror #8 is the leading actor since it is he who creates the conflict that moves the play. McCulough’s cast had a number of new students making their debuts, but I noticed a number of the actors I had seen in previous productions of Six Characters in Search of an Author and Almost Maine.
The full house audience on opening night in the studio theatre consisted of many students but I saw a number of adult patrons who I have seen at other venues and who have discovered the marvelous FSCJ theatre program and the excellent and affordable theatre it offers. Tickets were only $ 10.00 for this production, a real theater bargain these days.
The stadium seating of the Studio Theatre lent itself to this particular show, since having 12 people sit round a table, can make it difficult to see everyone if you are level with the stage, but sitting high up we were able to look right over the first row of jurors and see everyone clearly.
The outstanding cast included: Lauren Eitzenberger, Thad Walker, Norman McKenzie, Kelsey Clifford, Heather Mullins, Ryan Arroyo, Steven Carter, Bo Lockwood, Julia Fallon, Chloe Campbell, Chelsae Newberry, Cynthia Spradley, Steven Brazile, Phalecia Rumsey, and Jerald E. Wheat II.
Watch for future productions at Wilson Theatre, though student productions, they are always very professionally staged and acted. Wilson Center is one of my favorite venues enjoy an evening of theatre.