Claustrophobia, Containment: Upper School Boys Perform 12 Angry Men in the Round

As Juror 8, Grade 12 student John Raftus played a pivotal character in the Upper School production of 12 Angry Men. “Initially it's an 11-to-one vote and my character is the one who votes not guilty.” Over the course of the play, the tide turns as he instills doubt around the jury table regarding the guilt of a young boy accused of a vicious crime. Raftus’ character faced the challenge of changing the minds of his fellow jurors, while he and his fellow actors faced their own challenge: performing in the round. “It was honestly quite stressful, performing two feet away from people, but it was also a really cool experience,” says Raftus.

Director and Head of Arts Godric Latimer-Kim has only done one other Crescent production in the round and felt it was appropriate for this production. (“In the round” is a term used when the audience surrounds the stage, rather than sit in rows facing the stage.) “We wanted to show the claustrophobia of the jury room, that element of being contained,” she says. “The front few rows of the audience were lit and very visible, putting them in the jury room with the actors.”

Around half of the cast had never done a play before, presenting another twist. “We had such a collaborative ensemble this year because virtually every member of the cast was on stage at all times,” says Raftus. “The whole cast and crew really got close and we were able to save each other when we made mistakes.” Ms. Latimer-Kim says that she and co-director and Lower School drama teacher Jen Johnson choose plays based on the boys who will act in them. “We ask ourselves, ‘what is the student pool that we have? What is going to be the most interesting, engaging, and challenging experience?’”

Ms. Latimer-Kim and Ms. Johnson weren’t able to watch the three performances on December 6, 7 and 8 in real-time — they had to stay in the wings to support the production. When she received a professional recording of the production, Ms. Latimer-Kim says, “I started watching it and I couldn't stop. The performances were each very different experiences. Each one was a living, breathing thing.”