Emotions high during ‘Jurors’ rehearsals
Park City High School drama teacher Mikell Price wanted to get her students to feel as if they were in a sweltering, muggy jury deliberation room in the 1960s while they rehearsed for the upcoming play "12 Angry Jurors."
So, she and the students participated in a method-acting session that turned out to be more intense than anyone expected.
"We sat in a really hot room for three hours," Price said during an interview with The Park Record. "Everyone had to dress up as if they were on a jury. The girls had to wear nylons and the boys had to wear suits. We turned on the space heater and talked about things that made us angry."
A few minutes into the session, the students began venting their personal feelings about each other, Price said.
"We’ve experienced some backstabbing issues this year, and it has been pretty difficult to deal with," she said. "So here we were sweating in this hot room, which elevated the emotional tension, talking about what we didn’t like about each other."
For two hours, the kids cried, yelled and screamed at each other, Price said.
"We all bawled our eyes out," she said. "I kept checking to see if we needed to stop, but no one wanted to. So we kept it going."
Once everyone got out what they needed, they ran through the play.
"It was phenomenal," she said.
After rehearsals, the students had to fix the problems they ranted about, and in doing so, they became closer than they have been in all the years they have attended the class, Price said.
"It’s interesting to see how the kids treat each other now," she said. "I’ve had students tell me what an emotional and life-changing thing that rehearsal was, and how it set this play apart from anything they have done.
"I think this show is going to be great, because the kids have real emotions tied to their characters."
The script for Park City High School’s production of "12 Angry Jurors" is actually a composite of three versions of the story, Price said.
It combines elements from Reginald Rose’s original "12 Angry Men" play, and his 1957 film script, she said. It also takes scenes from Sherman Sergel’s "12 Angry Women."
In addition, the kids have added some of their own lines.
"They have done a lot of research and they’ll come up to me and tell me what they’ve discovered," Price said. "If what they’ve found fits into the context of the play, we’ll try to find a place for it."
The story focuses on a deliberating jury in a capital murder case. Throughout the production, each of the juror’s personalities emerges, and helps create the twists in how the verdict is chosen.
The Park City High School version is set in late 1964 to early 1965, around the time integration was passed, Price said.
"One of the reasons that is significant is because we have an African-American actress and she’s doing a lot of research as to what was going on at that time concerning Civil Rights and how that would affect her being on a jury," she said. "In all honesty a black man would have been on a jury at that time, but not a black woman. So we’re suspending the belief in that particular element and going from there."
The rest of the cast is being forced to look at the darker side of their characters and deal with prejudices, which is hard because they always want to be the good people, Price said.
"We’ve made sure every character has a skeleton in their closet, but we’re not trying to make anyone a villain," she said. "So that has been interesting.
Price knew she wanted to produce a drama this year.
"I wanted one with a lot of featured parts, because there are a lot of seniors and they’re all graduating," she said. "I wanted them to have a good show that allowed them to be on stage for a long period of time.
"Since this play has 12 main characters, which is about the size of my advanced drama class, it seemed like a good one to do."
Price is happy that the students have taken ownership of the play.
"They all have been very driven to make sure the emotion is real," she said. "I’ve been there to run rehearsals, and give it some direction, but they’ve really been doing it all."
Park City High School Drama Department’s "12 Angry Jurors" will run March 31 through April 2, at the Park City High School Black Box Theatre, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Evening curtain is 7 p.m., with an additional 2 p.m. matinee April 2. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and are available at the door or by calling (435) 645-5650.
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