DALLAS — Twelve jurors gather in a room with one window on a hot summer day. They are there to decide if a 19-year-old man is guilty of killing his father.
In the beginning, 11 of the them are convinced he’s guilty, but one has doubts about the prosecution’s case — and the competency of the teen’s attorney.
The jurors argue about the facts of the case, if further discussion is a waste of time, whether it’s their job to question evidence the defense didn’t, and even if the window should be open. The one thing they all know is they can’t leave until they’ve made a decision about the young man’s guilt — and if he’s to be put to death.
What: DHS Theatre’s production of “Twelve Angry Jurors.”
When: Tuesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.
Where: DHS Bollman Auditorium, 1250 SE. Holman Ave., Dallas.
Admission: $6. Purchase tickets at: https://app.arts-....
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That is the premise of Dallas High Theatre’s production of “Twelve Angry Jurors,” directed by Blair Cromwell and written by Reginald Rose. The show opened Tuesday and runs through Saturday.
The audience joins the cast on stage — closely surrounding the action on three sides — which enhances the already claustrophobic atmosphere.
“It’s scary having the audience that close, but it also helps with the show because we are cramped in this stuffy jury room,” said Maddie Blanchard, who plays Juror No. 3. “It only makes sense that the audience be there with us.”
The closeness exacerbates the challenge of having the entire cast on stage throughout the play.
“There are times when I personally don’t say lines for pages and pages,” said Grady Gagner, who plays Juror No. 9. “It’s hard to try to stay engaged for the entire show, especially with all 12 being on stage the entire time.”
Each show is limited to 75 seats, but Cromwell said the arrangement will intensify the experience for actors and audience alike.
“With this one, I thought that it would be nicer if you felt like you were in the jury room with them,” Cromwell said. “Right up there close, so you could hear them breathing so you become sort of like a juror yourself.”
In another twist, there are two casts.
Cromwell originally wanted to cast 12 jurors and the guard, but more than 40 actors auditioned, so she decided to have two casts, one all-male and the other all-female. The play is based on the film “Twelve Angry Men,” but has been adapted for all-female casts as “Twelve Angry Women.”
The lines are the same in both productions, but how they are portrayed is different.
Due to illness or other absences during rehearsals, actors from the different casts had to step in, and when they mingled, something unexpected happened.
“We ended up seeing that the conversations were the same, but if you changed the genders of the people speaking and people receiving the lines, it changed what the lines meant. That was really interesting to watch,” Cromwell said. “The minute you introduce both genders, then everybody instinctively shifted. They behaved in a different way. It has been kind of fascinating to watch this unintended conversation about gender dynamics.”
Cromwell decided to play with those dynamics and ended up with one cast having eight women and four men and the other with eight men and four women.
In one cast, Juror No. 3 (Grant Burton) yells in the faces of other characters, while the other actor (Blanchard) crochets as she delivers the same lines.
“My juror is very head strong. She knows what she thinks — that the boy is guilty,” Blanchard said. “She will debate with anyone who disagrees with her, but not in the nicest way because she can’t understand anyone else’s point of view.”
Point of view is what the play addresses, said Josie Smith, who plays Juror No. 12, a character who, at the beginning of the play, is motivated to turn in a verdict quickly and go home.
“This a play is about motivation of the character. You have to think a lot more about what they are doing and what their background is,” Smith said. “It’s such an emotionally centered play and every character is so different, with all their own triggers and their own back stories.”