Kent Place’s Upper School Theater Department is pleased to present Twelve Angry Jurors, adapted by Sherman L. Sergel from an award-winning movie and staged following COVID-19 safety protocols. The performance will be filmed and available for viewing by the KPS community in March.
Set in the heat of the summer of 1963, after the Birmingham protests, after the March on Washington, but before the assassination of JFK, the context is a nation in anguish and turmoil. The play walks us through the experience of 12 jurors who are charged with deciding if a young man murdered his father. Initially, only Juror 8 doesn’t vote Guilty.
As we eavesdrop on the jury’s deliberations, we discover how unexamined beliefs can result in gross injustice. Juror 8 serves to illuminate unconscious assumptions we make in a way that develops empathy and facilitates fair play. First the student actors, then the audience see what reasoned questioning and compassionate listening could look like — and accomplish. Over the course of the play, jurors express beliefs they’ve held firmly and, after close examination, adjust their thinking.
Said Director and Upper School Theater teacher Mary Catherine Walden, “I ask myself about what the characters do and don’t do and why. Juror 8 could have simply gone along with the majority and let a young man die, but he didn’t. He could have tried to manipulate or bully the other jurors to change their minds, but he didn’t. He could have easily brushed over his uneasy feelings about the trial, but he didn’t. Rather, he acknowledges his feelings, becomes curious as to why he has them, and admits his uncertainty: ‘I had a peculiar feeling about this trial,’ he says. ‘Somehow I felt that the defense counsel never really conducted a thorough cross-examination. Too many questions were left unasked. I want to talk awhile. I think we owe [the defendant] a few words.’”
Juror 8 wants the group to talk, listen, and then think for themselves. And that is what happens. They talk and argue, some angrily, some impatiently (they’ve been sequestered and want to go home), about the trial, about the evidence, about the young man, about reasonable doubt. What’s at stake is a young man’s life.
“What I really like about this particular play is the amount of audience involvement,” said Sophomore Sekai Marques, who plays Juror 4. “Throughout the production, I have always imagined the audience to be Juror 13, another person that has to form their own opinions on the trial and decide whether or not the boy is guilty. It’s my job, as an actor, to tell that story.”
“It’s my hope that this story will inspire us to examine, with courage, our own biases and assumptions in ways that lead to meaningful exchange, no matter how uncomfortable it may be,” Ms. Walden added.
The Twelve Angry Jurors cast includes Leah Cohn ’22, Alice Carr ’24, Cari Corrales ’24, Gabriella DePlasco ’22, Lilly Fanelle ’23, Catherine Gerbino ’24, Whitney Gordon ’21, Andrea Hanchuk ’24, Katie Markley ’24, Sekai Marques ’23, Annabelle Walter ’24, Natalie Weker ’24, and Sadie Zeiner Morrish ’22.
The crew includes Sheridan Harney ’22 (stage manager), Ruth Young ’24 (stage assistant), and Julia Gerbino ’21 (set designer).
Kent Place offers visual arts, dance, theater, and music instruction in all grades. Whether students sing or dance, play an instrument, act or direct, or paint, draw, and sculpt, they learn to see themselves – and their world ¬– from a variety of perspectives. For more information about the arts at Kent Place, please visit www.kentplace.org/arts.