Classic courthouse play brings drama to PCHS
Port Chester High School Drama Club presents ‘12 Angry Jurors’ this weekend
November 16, 2023 at 1:17 a.m.
Jordan Rivera (standing), playing Juror Nine, justifies the reasoning for his vote on the verdict of the murder trial during the Port Chester High School Drama Club’s dress rehearsal for “12 Angry Jurors” on Monday, Nov. 13. The show will be performed for the public Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 16-18.
(David Tapia/Westmore News)
Members of the Port Chester High School Drama Club have spent the last two months preparing for a performance unlike any seen in the school in the last several years—a character driven drama in the form of “12 Angry Jurors.”
Based on the teleplay that aired in 1954, “12 Angry Men,” the stage play will be performed by a group of students of all genders and races, hence the alternate title. Director Christina Baurle said it’s one of the few changes made to the show.
“When we got the licensing, we were allowed to change it to ‘12 Angry Jurors,’” she said. “They allow for a ‘12 Angry Men’ and a ‘12 Angry Women’ version, but you can combine the two.”
The cast of the Drama Club’s rendition of “12 Angry Jurors” prepare for their first full dress rehearsal of the show. Behind them, the student crew sits in as the audience, who will be seated on stage with the performers in a black box style show.
By David Tapia
But the dialogue of the show will maintain familiarity, staying the same as it was in the original barring some pronoun changes to match the performers. Baurle said it was an intentional decision to keep the rest of the show as true to its original script as possible.
“Even though it was written in the 50s, it’s something that everyone is always going to relate to, no matter when it’s produced,” the theater teacher said.
The subject matter of the story is fairly well-known, featuring a jury’s deliberations as they decide the fate of a young man accused of murder. It had been made famous through the production of the critically acclaimed 1957 film; however, it’s a story that several of the students didn’t know.
“I had no idea what it was,” said Toni Ash, the 16-year-old junior who is serving as the assistant director under Baurle. Despite her unfamiliarity with the show, she and her fellow club members dove into the production to put on the best performance they could.
Baurle made sure it was a show the students wanted to do, and a new process was created to do so.
“We decided to have a selection committee of students and staff members involved in the show,” Baurle said, explaining that it was a method to introduce student voices into the procedure of selecting the Drama Club’s performances. The committee, made up of five students and four faculty members, spent several months selecting their shows for the 2023-24 school year.
Nicholas Bedoya (left) has a laugh with Jordan Rivera prior to their run-through, before getting into the characters of Jurors Three and Nine, respectively.
By David Tapia
Sebastian Gimenez, a senior, was a member of that group last year and said they all were geared towards the new experience of taking on more of a dramatic piece. “We wanted to do something different, and we strayed away from comedies,” he said.
Three years ago, there was no fall play because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last two years saw the comedies “Around the World in 8 Plays” and “Clue.” Shifting away from the genre took adjustment.
“It was a challenge, but it was fun,” Gimenez said. “I needed to sound more assertive, and I struggled with that.” To get into his confident and aggressive character of Juror Eight, he would look into a mirror at home and shout his lines.
But the tone of the play wasn’t the only new thing for the students to get used to.
“It’s very different from anything we’ve done in the past,” Ash said. “Especially because it’s a black box.”
Most Port Chester High School Drama Club shows are viewed from a standard angle, with the audience in the seats of the auditorium looking directly towards the stage. But this black box style offers a more intimate viewing experience.
“Our audience is going to be sitting on the stage with the students,” Baurle explained. Approximately 40 seats are prepared on both sides of the stage, facing each other. There are no set changes throughout the show and spectators will have a very close view of the actors as they, in character, deliberate the verdict of a murder trial.
The subject matter of the play is something else they have yet to see in life. None of the students have participated in jury duty, and some of them said the experience of putting on “12 Angry Jurors” has changed their thoughts on it.
Juror Four (right), played by Sabrina Contreras, argues while holding the murder weapon used in the case they are deliberating.
By David Tapia
Nicholas Bedoya, a senior playing Juror Three, said his mindset toward the justice system has been altered.
“I never thought about it that much as it was just something that didn’t really affect me,” he said. “Now if I hear about a court case and then hear the verdict, I’ll consider the case more.”
Ava Garcia, a sophomore playing Juror Seven, had similar thoughts.
“I didn’t think about how there could be another side to these things,” she said. Now, when she hears about a decision for a court case, she may question it. “I think that it can almost be just one person’s opinion.”
That is part of Baurle’s goal in directing the show.
“I’d like to get people to think in a different perspective,” she said. “Students and adults of any age are going to relate or make connections in some way. I want them to think about what they would have done if they were in this situation.”
Tickets for the show are available online at tinyurl.com/pchsplay23 for $3, or $8 at the door. The play opened on Thursday, Nov. 16, and will continue through Saturday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. each night.