‘12 Angry Jurors’ tells a riveting story of justice and duty

By Sophia Monastra

You file into the small jury room. In front of you is a long wooden table surrounded by chairs. The lights above hum, and in the corner stands a cooler of water. The trial has dragged on for six days. You’re tired, the room is hot, and you want to go home. As you and the rest of the jury make your way to the chairs, someone walks over to the window and cracks it open. 

In this room, you and eleven other people will decide the fate of a boy accused of murdering his father. All of the evidence seemingly points to the boy’s guilt, but as the foreman takes the vote, one person disagrees.

This is the core of the play “12 Angry Jurors.” Originally written as a television film for an all-male cast, it has been adapted for stage, turned into theatrical releases, and written as an all-female cast variant that can be combined with any variety of casting for the version  “12 Angry Jurors.”

This play is a one-room legal drama. In its entire 90 minute run time, none of the actors leave the stage. All the props are brought on by the actors, and the play consists of a single act with no breaks or lighting changes.

Cedarville’s production, unlike others versions of “12 Angry Jurors” I’ve researched, takes place in an 18 by 24 foot black box theater, placing the audience around three sides of the stage. The set is highly detailed, with period accurate lights and a water cooler.

“The goal is for the audience to feel like they’re in the same room with the jury,” says director Blake Hanser. The members of the audience, along with the twelve jurors, have the opportunity to deliberate. All the trial evidence is provided in the audience guide each viewer receives upon entering the theater, meaning that every audience member becomes their own member of the jury asked to study the evidence and form their own verdict before the play begins. 

“12 Angry Jurors is about looking past your own prejudice,” stage manager Emma Chilcote says. “It’s about realizing how you think and what makes you change your mind.”

Eleven of the twelve jurors do change their minds, for a variety of reasons. Some are persuaded by unanswered questions and reasoning. Others have conflicting interests and side with whatever motion will get them out of the jury room. Still others realize their own prejudices prevent them from seeing the case clearly. As the jury deliberates, they not only uncover new information about the case, but they learn about themselves and each other.

So does the audience. Despite never learning the names of any of the characters, I saw them as real people, with flaws and desires and biases. I listened to their arguments, I understood their perspectives, and as they, one by one, changed their minds, so did I. That’s the greatest strength of the play–it makes the audience stop and deliberate, just as they would if they were called to jury duty. 

“Theater teaches,” says Hanser. “This play specifically teaches that the jury system is not broken–people are. We all need redemption, and we all need to take time to move past our biases to seek the truth.” 

Sophia Monastra is a sophomore Professional Writing and Information Design student. She does cool stuff.

Photos courtesy of Scott Huck

1 Reply to "‘12 Angry Jurors’ tells a riveting story of justice and duty"

  • comment-avatar
    Tom T May 1, 2024 (10:42 pm)

    Great selection to produce for the stage. With everyone staying on set and the audience on 3 sides the feeling is much different. I would encourage anyone to watch the original. Black and white, hot and gritty, great camera angles and acting. Many big stars for a TV movie.

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