Last night marked opening night of Oxford High School’s production of the classic show “Twelve Angry Men.”
Originally written in the 1950s, the show takes place in the juror’s room after closing arguments have been heard. The 12 jurors must reach a unanimous verdict, and one juror dissents to an otherwise unanimous guilty verdict. The man on trial for the murder of his father faces discrimination from members of the jury, and that plays into the discussion throughout the play.
The play was chosen by Theatre Director John Davenport, and after the success of their last play “Inherit The Wind,” another courtroom drama, “Twelve Angry Men” seemed like a perfect addition to the program’s seasonal schedule. One of the over-arching themes of the show is that it serves as a reflection of society, and this became apparent to Davenport as the show drew closer.
“I put it on the list back then not knowing in advance what the social and political climate of the country would be, and this piece is a great commentary on it,” Davenport said. “This particular show is less about the actual trial and more about judgment and personal prejudices that lead you to make assumptions about other people.”
Rehearsals for the play began on January 5. Most of the program’s productions are given five weeks to prepare, but due to the intricacies of the script, this show demanded an extra week of preparation.
“This show was given a full six weeks, which was needed for the type of intensity this show calls for,” Davenport said. “The acting is quite difficult, so we felt that the boys needed extra time to work on developing the characters. This is a challenging script, especially for young actors, but they’ve done a remarkable job. I told them from the very beginning that this will be unlike anything they’ve had because of the homework required for this. It’s far different from what they’ve seen before, but they’ve run with it.”
The preparation was put to the test last night as the show premiered to a full auditorium. The play went along without a hitch, and the audience responded with approval.
“It was incredible. The reaction we got from the audience was more than what I expected. It clearly had a lasting impact on those in attendance,” Davenport said. “It was obvious from the comments I received that it wasn’t something that the audience could go home and forget, and hopefully a show like this can provoke conversation. Art is a reflection of what is happening in our society, and even though this show was produced in the ’50s, it does that. And that’s why it’s a classic.”
While the play may be a classic, Davenport realized that the play needed some updates to make it relevant to the students’ age group and society in 2017.
“The play is a bit dated in some of its dialogue and references; so we’ve tried to update it as much as possible,” Davenport said. “We’re also trying to make it relevant to their age. All of the references to how old the men are have been taken out. Now, the concept has become the title should be ‘Twelve Angry Young Men.’ These are young men that haven’t been on a jury, or they may not know much about the justice system; so this has been a big learning experience for all of them.”
The show is set for tonight and tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with tickets available at the doors of the Kayla Mize Auditorium. Tickets are $5 for students of any age and $10 for adults.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.