TVT’s production of 12 Angry Jurors makes an impact

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TVT, the Tennessee Valley Theatre put on a play "12 Angry Jurors" that centered around racism back in the 1950's in a trial where people formed opinions based not as much on facts as on prejudice.(Photo:GaryBolden/RheaFReview)

Cast does wonderful job on play about jury interactions and prejudices

October 11, 2017

Spring City, TN — TVT, the Tennessee Valley Theatre put on a play “12 Angry Jurors” that centered around racism back in the 1950’s in a trial where people formed opinions based not as much on facts as on prejudice. The play was adapted by Sherman L. Sergel and is based on the Emmy award-winning television movie by Reginald Rose.  After watching the play, I will think more personally when I see verdicts in trials and realize the many things that come into play making decisions on people’s lives.

The cast did an excellent job with this interesting and though provoking play.  Director Tony McCuiston cast and produced the play well.  The actors each did a nice job making me believe their characters.  I found this was a good two hours of my time and left feeling fortunate that the Tennessee Valley Theatre provides an opportunity for community to see these productions and an opportunity for actors in the community to get a chance to ply their trade.

Juror # 1 Mike Jackson, Juror # 2 Cathy Soja, Juror # 3 Dan Frank, Juror # 4 Annette Duffy, Juror # 5 Cameron Cleveland, Juror # 6 Caroline Powers, Juror # 7 Brittany Grant, Juror # 8 Wes Byrd, Juror # 9 Nigel Chadwick, Juror # 10 Anita Hale, Juror # 11 Graham Duffy, Juror # 12 Alex Duffy, Guard Bailey Duffy and Defendant Bailey Hufstetler.

The setting for the play in a back room at the courthouse on a hot summer day, where 12 jurors are sent to determine the fate of a young man in the murder of his father.   The jurors are a hodgepodge of american society.  There are two main characters that carry a most of the action, but the play also intertwines the personalities and prejudices of the the other 10 jurors.  The main characters are a bigoted very loud and forceful character and a reserved, but very determined juror who is the hero of this production. Each character displays a personality and background a little different than the other.

In short the jury is ready to dispense quick and summary judgement and all but one juror is ready for a guilty verdict and feel no remorse at sending this man to his death for what they consider an open and shut case. Many in the jury openly talk of what “they” do and how “they” act, though never mentioning who “they” were.  Most reviewers say this young man is probably Hispanic, one group that was object of prejudice at the time because they were considered quick tempered and prone to drink too much and also many were in the lower social economic group at the time.

Juror # 2 sets out to force his opinion of the evidence on the others to get the deliberation over with and considers the evidence overwhelming.  Juror # 8 to the surprise of the other eleven jurors cast a not guilty vote and then spends the rest of the trial bringing common sense and non prejudicial eyes to the evidence.

The play is really a look at the interactions of different personalities and experiences in a room where the life of a young man is at stake.  It looks at how one determined individual can turn a group of eleven around and even the very opinionated and very determined Juror # 2.  It also looks at how we can let our previous life experiences and our prejudices affect our judgement at times.

What isn’t considered as much is the life that was taken.  It seems sad that the prosecutors and defense lawyers did such a poor job of examining the evidence in the trial.  It would seem the juror would not normally have to make so many interpretations of the evidence before reaching such an important decision.   In the end the man isn’t so much proved innocent but there is enough doubt that jurors do not make a guilty decision.  After watching this play, I could only think, though it is my duty to be on a jury, I consider myself lucky that I never had to have the life of a man or woman in my hands.  Now I understand that hopefully most trials don’t have this type of dynamics.  Obviously the play was written with these flaws built in to setup the jury interactions.

Foreman is man who is impressed with the authority who  handles himself quite formally.
Juror # 2 is a meek, hesitant woman who finds it difficult to maintain any opinions of her own, easily swayed.  Juror # 3 is very strong, forceful, humorless, opinionated man with a streak of mean.  Juror # 4 is woman of some wealth, who is experienced speaker, who presents herself well at all times.  Juror # 5 is younger man who is reserved but emotional at time.  Juror # 6 is slow witted woman who listens and slowly makes her decisions.

Juror # 7 is a loud, flashy woman who works at department store and feels the jury time is beneath her.  She is quick tempered and makes opinions quickly. Juror # 8 is quiet, thoughtful, gentle man of common sense who does not rush to form opinions and seeks truth and justice.  Juror # 9 is mild gentle old man in the sunset of life, who lacks the strength to be strong in his opinion.  Juror # 10 is angry bitter woman who places no value on human life and speaks her mind easily and seems highly prejudiced.  Juror # 11 is refuge from overseas, who came to country just a few years earlier and has a more realistic perspective on prejudice as he has experienced it.  Juror # 12 is a slick, superficial advertising man who looks at life through the eyes of sales and dollar signs.

Play produced by special arrangement with the Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, Illinois.

Tennessee Valley Theatre sponsors: Middle Tennessee Gas, Volunteer Electric, Dayton Utilities, Phil Hodge and the Plateau Group.

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