If 12 students at David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) seem a little dazed these days, please forgive them. If they wander the halls muttering to themselves, occasionally glancing down at crumpled sheets in their hands, give them a wide berth as you walk by. If they stand in the school field monologuing, let them be. After all, they are likely drama students doing final preparations for their upcoming play.
It is crunch time for the senior theatre class as they get ready for the year-end production. This year’s play was a good fit for the grade 10-12 class, as there are just enough students to play all the roles. Twelve Angry Jurors is an adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, an Emmy award-winning 1954 movie about a jury deciding a homicide case.
“This drama has been a fun challenge for us to work with because it is all dialogue, and not much action, so blocking it on stage to keep it visually interesting has required a lot of creative ideas from everyone,” said drama teacher Shelley Little. “It’s very tense too, with a lot of heated emotion and complex character dynamics.”
One such character is juror #3, played by grade 12 student Breckin Baillie.
“I saw that movie a couple years ago, and something about that character just lashed out at me,” said Breckin. “The concept of someone being so very angry and then breaking down and you find out why they’re angry.”
Breckin never saw himself as the drama type. He needed an elective in grade 11 and the school counsellor suggested he try drama.
“I was so vehemently opposed to it, I was like ‘oh god I don’t want to hang out with the drama kids, they’re so weird’,” he recalled.
But by the end of the year, he liked drama so much he signed up again. Breckin said one of the biggest skills he takes away from the program is how to work well with others.
“It’s how to work as a team, and how to be constructive with feedback … it also teaches you how to be up on stage in front of people,” Breckin said.
Lily Flamand learned last year how to be up on stage in front of people. She spoke many times, in another language, in front of an audience as part of her Rotary exchange program to Japan for grade 11. So it was a natural progression to take to the stage this year, though she came into drama unexpectedly. She was taking an online course and began sitting in the drama room during that period to watch the action. She was invited to join the class and decided on a whim to sign up.
“It’s allowed me to express myself in a way that I want to express myself,” she said. “I’m a very honest person, so it’s kind of nice with this [character] to be allowed to be annoyed.”
Lily plays juror #7 – “kind of a butthead” – she described.
“I love playing my juror because … it’s a great way to [have an] outlet for my emotions. I get to channel it and just kind of be aggressive. I get to yell, and I have a great time – it’s so much fun,” she said emphatically.
All the students have worked hard to learn their characters, Ms. Little confirmed.
“I’ve been so impressed with how the students have studied their characters and really developed their personalities and biases, as well as going the extra mile in finding the right costumes.”
Avery Nowicki is playing juror #5 and is coordinating the costumes. Avery based the costumes around the 1950s as she could find more conservative, appropriate attire for that period in thrift stores up and down the Valley.
Avery, a grade 11 student at DTSS, has loved the stage since she played the classic role of Wendy in Peter Pan when she was a kid. To get into the mindset of juror #5, she watched videos of people sitting on juries, watching how jurors react to information, and researched about the court system, adding that being in Law 12 this year has helped her to prepare for the role.
Ms. Little said the play has brought up a lot of good discussion with the students as they prepare for this serious drama.
“The conversations we’ve had in preparing this production have gone far beyond the theatrics of the stage and they’ve learned so much about the legal system, human bias, justice and the importance of reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence.”
Twelve Angry Jurors shows Friday, June 7th and Saturday, June 8th at the DTSS theatre, 7 p.m. Paiten White, a grade 12 chef training student, is coordinating delicious snacks for sale by donation at intermission.
Tickets are $10 each ($5 for students), available at the school and at Black Star Studios.