• Juror #3 (Carson Petocz ‘23) and Juror #8 (Abigail Vernier ‘20) go toe-to-toe in a heated debate. Photo by Carlos Barron ‘10.

The 1957 film Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose earned its reputation as an American classic and one of the greatest courtroom dramas of all time. Now, Southwestern students are getting ready to revive the timeless debate in their upcoming production of Twelve Angry Jurors, adapted for the stage by Sherman L. Sergel. 

In this compelling 75-minute performance, 12 jurors convene in an uncomfortably hot room to decide the fate of a young man of color on trial for his father’s murder. All vote guilty except for one: a juror who presses for a deeper discussion. The heat rises as the lone juror’s argument for reasonable doubt pressures others to reevaluate not only the strength of the evidence but also the insidious impact of their own prejudices. 

For audiences familiar with the classic film, Southwestern’s Twelve Angry Jurors will bring a fresh perspective to the story. Featuring a mixed cast of men and women, including people of color, this production provides an opportunity to see the jurors’ beliefs and choices through a different lens of human experience. The all-student cast has been hard at work to develop nuanced, realistic performances under the direction of Kathleen Juhl. A professor of theatre at Southwestern who specializes in acting and theatre for social justice, Juhl is excited for audiences to see the dimensions of character that each student brings to the stage. 

Paired with this new perspective is the thrill of being in the room with the action. “Seeing it live, there is in some ways even more a sense of danger, because it’s right there in front of you,” says Juhl. When the original film was released in 1957, the tension in the jury room mirrored cultural tension in America, as volatility festered around issues of McCarthyism, communism and fascism. More than 60 years later, the cultural issues have changed but the parallels of outrage remain relevant. “I have never before seen this kind of volatile anger going on in our culture,” says Juhl. The message Twelve Angry Jurors offers is perhaps more pertinent now than ever.

What is the message behind this powerful play? “It’s a play about racism; it’s a play about civil discourse; it’s a play that’s really connected to our cultural times right now and to the political climate,” Juhl says. These jurors are angry, but they come to the acquittal of the accused because, in some ways, one courageous juror forces them to have some semblance of sensible discourse about the case.” She hopes audiences seeing the show will walk away thinking about the danger there is in adopting monolithic views on issues and the responsibility that we share as a society to think harder and talk through those issues together.

The Sarofim School of Fine Arts at Southwestern University invites you to attend Twelve Angry Jurors, running November 15–17 and November 22–24, 2019. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday–Saturday and 3:00 p.m. on Sundays in the Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater at the Sarofim School of Fine Arts, Southwestern University. Tickets can be purchased through the Mathers Box Office in person, over the phone at 512.863.1378, or here.