Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Jury Will Now Retire

We are sadly coming to an end to STC’s 2018 teen show, Twelve Angry Jurors. I have learned many new acting skills that I will continue to carry with me in future shows. I have enjoyed all of my time working with STC and playing the role of Juror #6! She’s a person who you would consider quiet and shy, but there are some moments in the show where she isn’t afraid to speak her mind. I’ve really had to think about how she would move and speak given the room she’s in and her circumstances.

At the beginning of the show, we find twelve jurors in different spots around the jury room and their making “small talk”. Eventually, they get to where they start talking about the case and what they have learned so far. Once everyone has sat down at the table, they decide that they should take a vote to see where they stand, (and to see if they can go home sooner). There are 11 votes guilty and 1 vote not guilty. All the jurors know who it is who voted not guilty. They begin to wonder why that person changed their mind. As the show goes on, people begin to question their thoughts towards the boy, who is accused of murdering his father. Some even begin to change their votes, while others stay true to what their first vote was. We also begin to take a closer look towards the evidence given and find that some pieces of evidence are inaccurate. Towards the end of the show, it starts to become clear what everyone's thoughts towards the boy and the case are. They might even come to an agreement and decide that the boy is… Well, I’m not going to spoil it for you.

You may think that the jury process is very confusing. Well, it is… but I think that this show helps you understand what it’s like to go through that process and really understand why you are being chosen to be apart of this process. Like I said earlier, I’ve really had to think about my characters circumstances are. In this show, you will notice that there are some more quiet characters and those characters, including my own, have had to think of the question, “Why are we here? What do we have to offer that others don’t have?” We’ve also worked a lot with tactics and objectives and how those relate to our character and how our character uses those tactics and objectives to overcome his/her obstacles.

Working with the set team has been amazing! We’ve been given the opportunity to make designs from the 1950’s. Though this show only takes place in a dull jury room, there is still a lot of detail that needs to go into each set design we build. This show has been an amazing experience for me and I can’t wait for future shows!

Madison DeLashmutt
Juror #6/Set Team

Thursday, February 22, 2018

“I Speak With A What?”

When I first auditioned, I was super excited to be part of Twelve Angry Jurors. I love the whole story and even just the setting of this play. When I got a part, I was ecstatic and rushed to look at my character description and see who I would be portraying, and this is what I saw:

She is a refugee from Europe who came to this country in 1941. She speaks with an accent and …

The rest was a blur. “She speaks with a what?” I was completely astonished at the daunting task ahead of me, and I honestly had no clue if I would be able to succeed. I’ve never been particularly awful at speaking with an accent, but it wasn’t something I attempted frequently, mostly due to my fear of sounding completely and utterly stupid. However, before I could attempt to tackle this task, I had to figure out where exactly my character was from, since Europe does, in fact, cover a large span of the world.

This part was actually super fun and I really enjoyed doing the research into the background of my character. Since she came to the US in 1941, I figured she was most likely escaping from WWII and that she was Jewish. Then came the part of deciding which country she came from. Germany seemed like the obvious choice, but I decided to do more research. I quickly found that most Jews emigrating from Europe actually did not come from Germany, but rather places like Poland and the Soviet Union. I talked this through with Vivian, our director, and we decided that the Soviet Union would make the most sense, especially because in the script, my character talks a lot about the injustice that occurred in her home country, and how she’s so thankful for the democracy and freedoms of America.

Then, I had to actually learn a Russian accent. Again, I was afraid of sounding completely stupid, but Vivian assured me that, while it wouldn’t be perfect at first, it would just show me what I needed to work on, and that I would get it eventually. She gave me several sources to learn from and I looked specifically at the vowel and consonant changes that occur when speaking English with a Russian accent. Using these, I went through my script and wrote out each word as it would sound with the accent. Then I had to run through each line in my head over and over until I could eventually do it out loud. This tactic actually helped me memorize lines as well because I had to look at each word individually and figure out how a native Russian speaker would say it.

Thankfully, parts of the accent came naturally and I was able to do it without too much difficulty. However, there were some parts that caused me a little bit of trouble, and I began to refine the accent. Vivian got a recording of a native Russian speaker saying my lines, which helped a lot. Even when I had only listened to it a couple times, my accent became noticeably better and more natural. Heading into performances, I feel exceedingly comfortable with my accent and am proud of the work and time it took me to get here.

All in all, this has been a great experience and made me try something new that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Despite the initial shock of having a character with an accent, I’m so glad that I got this part and was able to do something different than what I normally do. Working on my character challenged me greatly and made me see that I was capable of so much more than I gave myself credit for. I’m extremely proud of all the work we have been doing and am so lucky to have the support of my fellow cast members and friends!

Naomi White
Juror #11/Costumes Team

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Libby Gens

12 Angry Jurors is a show very different than any other show I’ve been a part of -- different in a good way, I promise. When I first read this script, I was blown away by the playwright. This story is written so intelligently and I believe covers a topic we ought to hear more about. This story gives us all an idea of what actually goes on in the “unbiased” jury room. And gives us a much clearer definition on what guilty beyond a reasonable doubt actually means.

With all that being said, this wasn’t an easy rehearsal process to go through. This show takes place in 1950s New York City, where a group of New York citizens have been called to jury duty. Nobody really wants to be on jury duty, as they all have better things to do with their lives, but, nonetheless, it is their duty. Most of the jurors believe this is an open and shut case; there can’t possibly be a way for this kid to be innocent, right? They start out with a vote, and all but one juror votes for guilty. And the story takes off from that point on, arguing terms like “reasonable doubt” and “a life at stake.”

At the beginning of the rehearsal process, we did a lot of character work. We all wrote a very specific character analysis, covering everything from our character’s religion to their life at home. Another huge part of this rehearsal process has been urgency. Being in a show that is almost fully dialogue, we have to constantly keep the urgency up. Otherwise, this show would get really boring, really fast. My character (Juror #8) is presenting the argument that maybe this boy isn’t guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This lone juror is constantly battling for more support throughout the show, repeatedly pulling discarded facts out of nowhere, arguing with each juror, going back and forth, and never once losing a bit of her urgency and her need to make the other jurors understand her doubt. As the actor trying to become this character, urgency is something that I’ve had to work on quite a bit more than I’m used to, but it is a skill I hope I’ll never lose.

I can definitely say that my first teen show was a complete success. I’ve learned so many new skills during this show, and I’ve developed so many new friendships. Theatre has always been a passion of mine, and I’ve recently been having some doubts if I want to keep pursuing it. After this show, I’ve definitely decided to continue doing theatre. I really hope you all enjoy this show, as we’ve all put so much hard work and effort into it.

Libby Gens
Juror #8/Props Team

Saturday, February 17, 2018

"What do you want?"

“What do you want?”

At first glance, this phrase may seem blatantly rude. You may consider it to be harsh, even. But in our production of Twelve Angry Jurors, it has been the single most useful sentence I have heard. How? It all comes down to one simple subject, a tiny piece of the puzzle that is the play. What is this piece? Characterization. What does it have to do with the play? Almost everything.

Twelve Angry Jurors is unique in the sense that most of the plot is driven by emotion. While other plays may have a plot in which the conflict itself spawns emotional reactions from the characters, 12AJ turns that dynamic upside-down. It cuts straight to the raw emotion of twelve unique individuals, all stuck in a hot room to decide the fate of someone they’ve never met. As you can tell, there’s a lot of layers there. And that’s just where the phrase, “what do you want,” comes into play.

Each and every character in the story has a reason for doing what they do. Every single person has an internal dialogue that is slowly molded into their agenda throughout the play. And so far, all of my fellow actors have been doing an amazing job at portraying this - all because of that seemingly-rude phrase.

Here’s how it works: imagine you have just sat down, program in hand, in the house of a theater. You’re excited, not knowing what’s about to happen onstage. Perhaps you have picked up a little knowledge about the play somehow, but ultimately you’re here to watch a magnificent piece of drama unfold. The lights dim, the actors walk onto the stage, and…

...the play is boring. So boring that you’re yawning. It’s clear that the actors are just saying their lines, and they have no understanding of what the characters are grasping for. They’re barely acting, just reciting the script and going through the motions. It’s almost exhausting to watch - and not in a good way.

Now, I’m not saying you’ve ever seen a play like this. Perhaps you’ve seen something close, but not to this extreme. In any case, you can rest assured that Twelve Angry Jurors steers quite clear of this, all because of our secret weapon of a phrase that we’ve been using all throughout our rehearsal process:

“What do you want? Why are you here? What is your character striving for in this moment? Why do they agree - or perhaps disagree - with what one of the other jurors just said? What are they trying to gain by saying this?”

Variations of this phrase have been used during every rehearsal. Furthermore, each actor has filled out several pages worth of character analysis guidelines, all with the specific goal of bringing these fantastically intricate characters to life. It’s been a lot of work, but it will have been worth it when you come see the play. Instead of watching fourteen people recite line after line, you’ll be watching the amazingly detailed narrative of a rag-tag group of people from different backgrounds, different beliefs, different morals, all coming together to decide on one of the most difficult decisions that can be thrust upon one’s conscience.

It’s thrilling, to say the least. It’s a story that’s definitely worth more than just one evening in the black box. It leaves you exhausted in the best way possible - all because of that one question that keeps nagging, keeps biting, keeps pulling away at the layers, until what’s left is the raw, unadulterated plot of twelve uniquely complex characters who have been assigned to accomplish the most daunting task of their life.

Gerrit VanDyk
Juror #12/Set Team

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

You're Stage What?

My name is Ben Siegel, and I’m the stage manager for Twelve Angry Jurors. When I tell people that I am stage managing, I often get answered with a “You’re stage what?” If you are in the crowd that has never heard of a stage manager before, are curious about what a stage manager’s specific duties are for a teen show, or just want insights on the show from a different perspective, you’re in the right place! I’m going to share with you some of my primary duties during each phase of the process, specifically for an STC teen show.

Over the course of the entire process, I am in charge of keeping us on schedule. This includes making sure that we do not spend too long on a specific portion of a rehearsal, that every production team member gets time to adequately cover what they need to during production meetings, and making sure that performances start on time. Another one of my jobs is keeping track of everybody’s conflicts and making sure that everybody is in attendance when they need to be. I am also the guy who sends out all the e-mails. But sending out a bunch of messages isn’t what makes stage managing so fun; it’s knowing that everything you do is for the purpose of making the show run smoothly.

During rehearsals, I compose reports for the designers and staff members. These inform them of any notes that the director or I have for them. Maybe a rehearsal prop broke. Maybe we realized that one of the set pieces squeaks when it is moved (We had this issue with our chairs :)). Maybe one of the lights needs refocused. Whatever needs communicated to designers, it’s my job to make sure they know about it.

During early rehearsals, one of my main responsibilities is taking blocking notes. I need to have the most up to date copy of the script, complete with all of the movements that the actors make over the course of the story and the exact time that they make these movements. During later rehearsals when the blocking is more solidified and memorization dates approach, I start taking line notes. We, of course, strive to have the lines said in our final production match the exact words written in the script as much as possible. I take note of any times when this is not happening and send out a report to the actors that detail these errors. In earlier stages of memorization, I am also in charge of giving actors their lines if they forget them while we are working a scene.

I also lead production meetings - meetings between the designers, the staff, and myself. I serve as, more or less, the moderator of the discussion, ensuring that each member of the production team gets a chance to share anything that they need to that particular week. I also make sure that each production team (costumes, set, props, dramaturgy) is on track with their deadlines. During the meeting, I take note of any reminders that I should give production team members, any decisions that we reach, and any key possibilities that are brought to the table. I write up another report detailing these ideas and send it to the production team.

Now, rehearsals and production meetings are coming to an end. This Sunday, we start technical rehearsals! Tech rehearsals are really exciting because we get to see the entire show come together; however, they have a reputation for being incredibly stressful and even chaotic. My job is to make sure that everything runs smoothly and make the process as stress-free as possible. Tech week really becomes a stage manager’s time to shine. I need to effectively take charge to ensure that everything stays organized during our last few rehearsals before performances.

During performances, a stage manager would typically call the cues. This means that they would take note of every light and sound cue in the production and, over headset, tell the light and sound board operators when it is time to go. For this particular production, there are very few technical cues and I led the lighting design process, so I will be running the board myself. Before performances, I assist with mopping the stage, charging glow tape, making sure that all props are set where they need to be, and similar routine tasks. Essentially, I make sure we are ready for our audience.

It has been such a pleasure to work with this group of dedicated and talented artists, and I have learned a ton from my participation with the show. I can’t wait to share this story with you!

Ben Siegel
Stage Manager

Sunday, February 11, 2018

An Ever-Changing Job

The Dramaturgy Team, in any show, can be a valuable resource for the cast. They can provide insight into the world of the play, or necessary context for the other production teams. I have been one of the dramaturgs for the past three teen shows now, and the experience has never been the same twice. Each show adds a new and exciting layer to the process, so the job never ceases to be fun for the team.

In Almost,Maine, our research consisted of looking into what cliches the script was centered around (not to mention a lot of the Aurora Borealis), while for Our Antigone, we read through the ancient Greek plays for backstory of the plot. And in this show, we’ve been thrusted into a whole new world of legal terminology and 1950s history. Additionally, everytime we give a presentation to the cast, it never feels like we are repeating ourselves or shoveling to them the same information over and over again.

The dramaturgy for this show is especially important, as it is, inherently, a period piece. Therefore, collecting information from this time period is vital for both the production teams-- as their work needs to look time-accurate, otherwise, certain aspects will feel a bit anachronous, and leave the audience feeling disoriented in space and time--as well as for the actors themselves, so they can know more about the world their characters inhabit, and thus, be able to make more honest decisions as they act. For instance, recently we presented a large chunk of information about the social environment of the time period. We thought this information would be useful for certain characters in identifying their circumstances and how others would react to them.

As a part of the Dramaturgy Team, one never finds themselves in a dull or boring moment. It’s such an important job, that varies from not just show to show, but week to week, as we tackle new questions and assignments. To be a dramaturg is to be stepping stone. A jumping off point to help the other members of the company in their own personal jobs.

Zander Reed

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Backstage and Onstage

One of the things that is most unique about the teen show is the opportunity to expand and learn new skills. Not only can you act on stage and learn theater skills in a professional atmosphere, you also get hands on experience of building the show in all aspects. The opportunities offered are things such as set, props, costume, hair and makeup, lighting, dramaturgy,  and stage managing. I started the teen show experience with Almost, Maine. I was an actor and a member of the props team. The next year, during Our Antigone, I was an actor and lead set designer. This year, I am an actor and lead set designer yet again.

I find that once you become familiar onstage, it is a whole new experience working offstage. Working with props taught me problem solving skills and creativity. Becoming a team leader was a totally different experience for me. Not only did I learn set, I learned budget, time management, and cooperation with other teams. You never stop learning with the teen shows. Different shows require very different things from each team. The Antigone set was very different from the Twelve Angry Jurors set. Though most of the time, the set is listed out in stage description, there is always room for creativity with the help of my amazing set team.

Set Waffles minus Gerrit. From Left to right: James, Madison, Sarah, Travis

The thing I am excited for this year that is different from other shows is the simplicity of this set. We are working in the 50’s era, so technology and such isn’t nearly as advanced. The black box theater also adds an up-close and personal atmosphere so that the audience can pay attention to minute details in set, props, costumes, etc. The simplicity of this set allows for attention to detail. This is a simple jury room. It has simple things such as a working water cooler, a clock, a table, 12 chairs, and an opening window. Oh, and you can’t forget the trash can.

A bonus I have is being a part of the rehearsal process as an actor. I get to see what each character is going to be doing with the set, I get to see problems that might occur, and I get to fix them. The teen show is an altogether amazing learning experience.

Travis Cooper
Juror 2/Set Designer