Updated: Jan 19, 2020
A crime. A teen of colour. A death sentence. 12 jury members. This jury's forced stitching is taring; a thread of civility is needed or things might just get out of hand.
Rural Root's Theatre production of Reginald Rose's play, 12 Angry Jurors, is based on the 1957 movie 12 Angry Men starring Henry Fonda. The production was directed by Ric O'dell. This immersive theatre experience was presented at the NorthWind Wireless Fibre Centre, in Ottawa, Ontario, and had it's run from the 22nd to the 26th of October, 2019, with a matinee that occurred on the 20th.
JUROR NUMBER FOUR
“Take a look at this knife. It's a very strange knife. I have never seen one like it before in my life, neither had the store keeper who sold it to him. Are you trying to tell me that someone picked up the knife off the street, went to the boy's house and stabbed his father, just to be amusing?”
The West Carleton Online Newspaper Wrote:
Landers, who played Juror #4, is a Toronto-based actor who grew up in Dunrobin. This was her first time performing with Rural Roots Theatre. The actor has played Jocasta in Kostas Gakis’ modern adaption of the Greek tragedies From Antigone to Medea in Greece last summer; Follow Your Heart in Toronto in 2016; and on television as a series regular in The Forgotten Chronicles.
She came to be part of the 12 Angry Jurors production thanks to a case of homesickness.
“I was in Toronto, feeling a little homesick,” Landers told West Carleton Online Monday (Oct. 28). “When I was visiting my parents in Dunrobin, my parents noticed the RRTC was holding auditions. So, the rest is history.”
What took Landers so long to join the RRTC?
“I was absolutely floored when I found out about the RRTC,” Landers said. “I lived in Dunrobin for 20 years and I didn’t know about it.”
The RRTC’s production of 12 Angry Jurors was set up a bit different then past performances. Instead of using the NorthWind stage, the jury room was set in the middle of the theatre with the audience on both sides of the production – almost a theatre in the round.
“I wanted to do something different,” director O’Dell said. “Something that would inspire not only the cast, but also the patrons that come to the show. I wanted to have them in the Jury Room, to be there, to see what happens.”
The 12 Angry Jurors cast includes (from left to right) Brian Thompson, Ronald Gardner, Colin Puchala, Harold Swaffield, Arya Landers, Chad Tobin, Dennis Sakalauskas, Ivo Mokros, Greg Geisler, Bruce Buie, Liz Szucs, Jason Matheson and Laura Scott.
Photo by Judi Paquette Bastable
As an actor, Landers called the production an “immersive experience.”
“The great thing about how we did it for me, is as our audience left, we hung out and were able to speak to them as they left,” she said. “They said the characters were very annoying, very convincing. The ability to interact with the audience is a gift. I know that for me it makes me more proud of my work and I know we made an impact and that’s an actor’s goal.”
“In Canada we pride ourselves in being free and inclusive,” Landers said. “But there is still racism out there. This play highlights that we shouldn’t use stereotypes, because it’s dangerous. In this case a man’s life depends on it. We’re not always welcoming. This play makes us re-evaluate our ideas and beliefs. We have grown so much in the last 20 years, but people still fall in the trap of racism and stereotyping.”
The 1957 movie had an all male cast. Many productions also use an all male cast, as the play is often known as 12 Angry Men. For Landers, mixing up the cast adds a new element to the production, but also adds realism.
JUROR NUMBER FOUR
“And some murderers get loose and do it again. They squeeze out on some technicality and kill again.”
It was a couple of weeks prior to my journey to Greece, that I had the opportunity to audition for the production of 12 Angry Jurors, during late June. I had prepared my audition piece for Juror Number Eight and the auditions were being held at the Len Purcell Centre. My drive to the Constance Bay area was accompanied by my mother and my mentor, Canadian Gemini award winning actress, Shannon Lawson. During the audition process, our director, Ric O'dell, asked all the actors to do a cold read and then we all participated in an exercise of a scene study, and every actor read for every role. A few hours later, I was laying in bed - reading- when I received the call from Ric O'dell offering me a lead role as Juror Number Four.
12 Angry Men is a classic movie that I fell in love with as a child because the subject matter is unfortunately continuously relevant, even today. I was so excited to be part of a play that highlights the wrongs of prejudice and racial profiling, and brings to light the importance of critical thinking.
Rural Roots Theatre
This production was the first time that I had the opportunity to work with Rural Roots Theatre and director, Ric O'dell. Every crew member and stage hand was absolutely a pleasure to work with. Their dedication and professionalism were exemplary. It would be a wonderful delight to have the opportunity to work with Rural Roots in the future.