Each day, the headlines remind us of the power, the drama, and the intrigue that transpire every day in the nation's courtrooms. In government class we study the judicial system and what goes into determining the innocence or guilt of the accused. But in "Twelve Angry Jurors," the coed version of "Twelve Angry Men," we are brought behind the scenes to see the intense deliberation of jurors arguing whether a boy is guilty of killing his father. The play is very raw and emotional, so the actors must fully immerse themselves in their roles just as the students at TC Williams High School in Alexandria have had the unique experience of being immersed in every aspect of this play, from the directing to the technical crew. The students also have a chance to learn from a faculty mentor, Ms. Bachman, who is there to provide guidance and feedback on every aspect of the production.
Senior Will Cooper has taken on the job of student director. Taking exercises he learned from being in other productions, he had the cast work on becoming a team before he handed out the roles because every juror is on the stage for the entire show, and he wanted to make sure they understood there was no small role in this play. It would take all of them to make the show outstanding. Cooper said, "It is extraordinary how much control we are given. It gives high school students not only the chance to gain hands-on experience, but it also allows them to learn and grow from each other."
The cast members also feel having a student-run production gives them a greater influence in the presentation of the play. "With a student director there is much more liberty for the actor to mold the character as they see fit," said Lauren Abramson who plays juror number seven. (In the play, none of the jurors have names.) After working with both student and adult directors, she said the major difference when working with a student director is that, "It is a much more relaxed environment, and [the cast] feels more able to give input to the director because he is one of our peers."
The technical side of the play is also run by the students. They learn how to hang the lights in the catwalk, bring up light and sound cues during a live show, and build and paint sets, among other things. Michaela Murphy, as head stage manager, is in charge of making sure the show runs smoothly. She has also taken on the responsibility for sets and lighting design. She said, "Having a student-run production gives us valuable hands-on experience in fields we would not otherwise have the opportunity to explore." Again, their work is aided by the advice and ever-watchful eyes of Ms. Beckman, Mr. Nicholson and Mr., Tanguay, of the school faculty.
By having a production managed by the students, the TC Williams drama department has given students a chance to become leaders and explore the many different elements of producing a show. It gives students with various talents the ability to be part of the play. In some ways, this experience parallels the drama that is portrayed in the play, as 12 ordinary people are asked to take on an extraordinary task. Just as these jurors rise to the occasion, the TC Williams students also have shown their ability to rise to their full potential and make an outstanding show.