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12 Angry Jurors is bringing a tense legal drama to Jackson-Reed

Planning tirelessly since the summer, the Jackson-Reed Players have worked hard to bring Reginald Rose’s “12 Angry Jurors” to the Black Box Theater this winter. The cast, crew, and outside hire, director Ryan Neely, have rehearsed 4 days a week for the past 2 months to build up an act that will put the audience on the edge of their seat.

Originally released in 1957 as “12 Angry Men,” the name has been changed by many other theater productions, and the Players followed this choice to be more inclusive and gender-neutral. “Tense” and “intricate” are only some of the words that the cast used to describe this play, as it takes place in a hot New York City courtroom where 12 jurors are called to discuss a murder trial of a 16-year old boy. The trial presented the jurors with evidence that seemingly proves the boy stabbed his father, leading all but one juror to declare the boy guilty. However, the jurors must come to a unanimous decision. 

As disagreements and tensions rise between the 12, so does an investigation into the American justice system. “The show is about how people’s perspectives can clash, and in our justice system, how that affects people’s innocence and guilt,” says senior August Taylor, who plays Juror #4. 

Each juror has a unique personality and view on the case, bringing a dynamic and lively dialogue to viewers. While the majority of the jurors initially see the convict as guilty, Juror #8 forces them to consider the opposite before making their decision. Chhaya Deonauth, one of the assistant directors, adds that “it’s all about personal bias and being able to have an open mind, and being willing to stand against the crowd.” 

When deciding what winter play to put on, the players chose “12 Angry Jurors” not only because of its well-sized cast and a doable budget, but because it portrays themes of classism, individual prejudices, and ethical and moral dilemmas. 

“[It] takes a critical look at our justice system, and how a jury room really works, which is a place where we don’t have a lot of insight in general,” said Neely. “It’s a lot more human [than other plays]”, adds senior Nathaniel Rubens-Goldfarb who plays Juror #2. 

Deonauth explained that she and co-assistant director, Lucaya Sol, recognized that it was important to have Black voices involved in leading the show. “We decided that if we were going to have a white man direct this show, we wanted Black women to be the assistant directors to give the insight he would not be able to have.”  She explains that “If we were going to do it, it needed to be the two of us to assistant direct because otherwise, it wouldn’t have the right perspective to be as good as it could be.”

Although the play was also brought to the then-Wilson stage in May of 2019, this 2024 version delivers a fresh take with new costumes, stage design, cast, and a new director. “12 Angry Jurors” is Neely’s first directing job at Jackson-Reed, and he has had a great time working with the cast and crew. “I think that everybody is wonderfully playful, creative, and I think that we’re going to put on a really great show and that everyone is going to be blown away from the depths that they are reaching,” said Neely. 

The overall commitment of the cast, crew, and Players has also ensured a great performance. The Players, who serve as the producers of the show, have dedicated time to finding volunteers, facilitating a hiring process, researching the play, making a list of necessary supplies, and navigating the scheduling needs. “They’re super self-sufficient,” commented Betty Mfalingundi, the Player’s sponsor. 

Talented acting, passion, and intricate set design are all verdicts that can be expected from this play. “This show has a really good story and it’s going to have some passionate and different acting than we’ve seen in the more recent Jackson-Reed productions,” Rubens-Goldfarb said. 

Taylor emphasizes the importance of observing every detail when viewing the show. “You really have to watch what’s going on and remember who stands where. Knowing the difference between the characters is a big thing in the show,” highlighted Taylor. 

Be sure to fill the suspenseful courtroom on February 2, 3, 8, 9, and 10 at 7pm and witness the final ruling: guilty or innocent?

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Edith Corrigan-Conaty, Spread Editor
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