The jury is out


GREENFIELD — Miles Hughes hopes America’s fascination with jury trials will bring big audiences to “Twelve Angry Jurors.”

As a cast member in the Ricks-Weil Theatre Co.’s upcoming courtroom drama, showing at the Ricks Centre for the Arts on Oct. 27 through Nov. 5, Hughes believes “Twelve Angry Jurors,” still has relevance.

Written as a teleplay in 1957 by Reginald Rose (and originally titled “Twelve Angry Men”), “Twelve Angry Jurors” depicts 12 men debating the fate of a young man charged with murder. Once they’re sequestered in the jury room to deliberate, most of the jurors are ready to cast guilty votes, but one hold-out clings to reasonable doubt.

Hughes cites the O.J. Simpson trial and the Casey Anthony case as crimes that captivated members of the public, who would have given anything to know what happened in the jury room behind closed doors.

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“Any production that explores the deliberation process is relevant,” Hughes said.

Director Kathy Hoefgen’s said today’s strained social and political climate made “Twelves Angry Jurors” an easy choice.

“I thought it was an important piece to start an amicable discussion about following the letter of the law rather than judging people on what they look like or where they’re from,” Hoefgen said.

Hoefgen not only directs the show but serves as dramaturg as well, researching the background and time period in which the was show first performed. Research can include anything from script analysis to the furniture and costumes of the day.

“You have to research attitudes from 1957 and attitudes now to understand why people were responding the way they did and how they respond now,” she explained.

One fact Hoefgen uncovered was the fact women were not allowed on a jury in all 50 states until 1973, thus allowing “Twelve Angry Men” to be modified to “Twelve Angry Jurors.”

Hoefgen returns to directing a drama with “Twelve Angry Jurors” after trying her hand at comedy with “Greater Tuna” last spring. Each production brings new directorial challenges, and “Twelve Angry Jurors” is no exception, she said.

Faced with several first-time actors, Hoefgen and her cast talk often about character development and objectives — what they’re trying to get across in any particular moment, Hoefgen said.

Hughes, 60, acted in high school and in a local community pageant in his home state of Kentucky before moving to Shelbyville. Hughes likes to say he earned his acting chops in his 37 years as a paramedic.

“There was a lot of acting in that job,” Hughes said, “such as acting calm on the outside when I wasn’t (calm) on the inside.”

After reading the character descriptions for the cast, Hughes thought he might be a fit for several of the characters. He was cast as Juror No. Four.

Each of the 12 jurors in the show has a unique character and point of view within the play. Hughes describes his character as being “really meticulous about following the law as it pertains to this case.”

To prepare to play the role, Hughes said he’s tried to convince himself to think as his character does — it’s more believable, he says, if he can find common ground with the man he’s meant to portray.

“I’m making myself believe as he believes,” Hughes said, “and working to see the case as Juror No. Four would.”

Hughes has his work cut out for him. As a fast-paced ensemble production that takes place in one room, most of the cast stays on stage most of the time.

“There’s no down time,” Hughes said.

“Ninety percent of acting is reacting,” Hoefgen added. “How they (the actors in the show) are reacting to things that are said is probably 95 percent of the show.”

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Tickets for Ricks-Weil Theatre Co.’s “Twelve Angry Jurors” (based on Reginald Rose’s “Twelve Angry Men”) are now on sale:

Price: $10 each or $8 each for groups of 10 or more for the same performance

Reservations: 317-477-8689