Jeff Dean has directed two plays in his life, both for Forsyth’s Backlot Players. His second, “12 Angry Jurors,” opens Friday at the Rose Theatre on the square in downtown Forsyth.
“12 Angry Jurors,” is based on the Emmy-winning 1954 television drama “12 Angry Men,” and it’s not typical community theater feel-good fare.
“When I saw our selection committee had chosen it for this season, I knew it was the one I wanted to do,” director Jeff Dean said. “I had loved the movie of it starring Peter Fonda that was based on the television play and, though it’s not a happy-go-lucky story, I thought it would be fun to direct. So far it’s been that way.”
“12 Angry Jurors” is Sherman Sergel’s stage adaptation of Reginald Rose’s teleplay written during television’s golden-age of live drama.
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The play is virtually continuous action on a minimal set as 12 jurors deliberate the guilt of a 19-year-old defendant in a homicide. Reasonable doubt comes into play forcing jurors to question values and biases.
And it gets heated.
“This is all on the actors to play out very tense, volatile opinions and emotions,” Dean said. “You’re pulling volunteer actors out of their comfort zone to use anger to create tension onstage and in the audience. It’s the odd case where you actually tell actors to step on one another’s lines and get in each other’s face.”
Dean said it takes talented actors — and daring ones — to do it and bring audiences along with them.
“One reason I wanted to do this was I knew we had the actors and I wanted to showcase them,” Dean said. “I wanted to let them do their work and when it’s over have people leave saying, ‘Wow! Those are some great actors.’ ”
In addition, Dean credits assistant director Samantha Smith with the quality of the production. “You need someone who’s very detailed to help keep the boat between the beacons and she is excellent at it,” he said.
Asked further why he selected such a challenging play as only a second directing project, Dean said his first effort was “The Crucible,” an equally difficult, high-emotion, pain and tension-filled story.
The Backlot Players is a community theater group in its 24th year, designed to promote the arts in Monroe County through quality theater and other entertainment, according to company member Dennis Smith. Their 150-seat, historic Rose Theater was once a grand movie palace the group has refurbished — and is still refurbishing. Smith said the theater is located next to Forsyth’s popular Grits Cafe.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.
“12 Angry Jurors”
Where: The Rose Theater, 23 W. Johnston St., Forsyth, Ga.
When: 7:30 p.m. March 16-17 and 23-24; 2:30 p.m. March 18 and 25
Cost: $15 adults, $12 students, seniors and military
Tickets and information: Box office 478-994-0443, 4-7 p.m. March 12-15 and 19-22 and two hours before performances; www.thebacklotplayers.org.