By: Jason Freeze
This February, the Paris Performers’ Theatre is bringing the 1950’s era story of ’12 Angry Men’ to life on the stage. The original book was written by Reginald Rose and tells the story of how 12 men, on a jury, deliberate the sentencing of a young man accused of killing his father. But the drama of the story doesn’t stop there, because there is one hold out. One person sees past the colour of the accused’s skin and starts to convince the others not to sentence him to death.
As it’s set back in New York City of the 1950’s, the story definitely brings racism to the forefront. The play stays true to the book very well so the audience feels the intensity of this drama. Even so, it still has some funny moments to contrast all the emotions.
During one of their rehearsals, I got the chance to watch the action take place before it gets on stage. It’s always interesting to see how a work of art comes together, and getting a behind the scenes experience of how a performance comes together is also intriguing to watch.
Every actor in this performance came in with the rule that they had to know their lines. So even though there were a few odd mistakes or requests for lines, the group knew their stuff. But the rehearsal of their lines wasn’t the fun part to see. It was how they physically acted out the play. With the set already laid out, the actors learned how to interact with their surroundings and themselves. They felt their way through the set and the characters’ reactions with each other. And with each line, they kept getting better and more comfortable with their actions.
There is one person in particular who gets the chance to see the actors in action and has the chance to shape their craft as well; the Director. While I was there, I got to have a chat with Matthew Willson who is directing this play.
I asked him what are some of the hardest things about putting on this play. He mentioned that as this is primarily set with 12 guys around a table, it will be hard for them to interact with the audience and keep them engaged. And this is where their rehearsals come in handy. They have to keep the audience in their minds when acting out the scenes. So they have to put some actions into their scripts as well. And from what I saw, the group has done an amazing job at creating their actions and showing their character’s emotions.
One of the other hard parts of this play is making sure everyone is together for each rehearsal. Its integral to the show that everyone knows what to say when and how to portray that with each other. With a sizable cast, it becomes difficult to keep everyone’s schedules in line. So its imperative that everyone can make their rehearsal times. Plus, it’s even more important when they only have six weeks to rehearse, when other productions like this normally take eight.
Besides the hard parts, Matthew mentioned that this was a wonderful local cast to work with, who are excited to showcase this story to the community. He said that the play will also be submitted to the Western Ontario Drama Festival. This is a regional championship with about 30 other submissions. Matthew has directed three times for this festival before. Once he was nominated for Best Director and another time he won the title. So they’re certainly looking forward to the competition as well.
With such a great story and an amazing cast, you’ll want to make sure you check out this performance. 12 Angry Men will be playing at the Paris Fairgrounds from February 16th through to February 25th with both evening and matinee shows. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at Green Heron Books in Paris. For more information and exact show times, please visit: www.parisperformerstheatre.com.
We hope you enjoy the show!