Hesston College theatre to present popular courtroom drama

The Hesston College Theatre Department will present five performances of the fall drama “Twelve Angry Jurors,” directed by Laura Kraybill, Oct. 3 to 6 in the Northlawn Studio Theatre on the Hesston College campus.

“Twelve Angry Jurors,” by Reginald Rose and adapted by Sherman Sergel, tells the story of a jury considering the fate of a young man accused of murdering his father. Opening just as the jurors move to deliberation, eleven of the jurors agree on a guilty verdict, with only one not guilty.

The Hesston College Theatre Department will present "Twelve Angry Jurors" Oct. 3 to 6.
The Hesston College Theatre Department will present “Twelve Angry
Jurors” Oct. 3 to 6.

Many of the jurors have reasons for discriminating against the defendant, including his race, background and one juror’s own troubled relationship with his son. Throughout the play, the lone juror with a verdict of not guilty sows reasonable doubt in the minds of the other jurors, illustrating the controversial and difficult elements of the judicial system and how personalities, backgrounds and life experiences drive a person’s views.

The drama is based on Roses’ 1954 teleplay “Twelve Angry Men” that aired on CBS. The play adaption, with a title change to “Twelve Angry Jurors” to allow for a gender-diverse cast, premiered on Broadway in 2004, winning a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2005.

“This play is one of the most beautifully constructed play scripts I’ve encountered,” said Kraybill. “The writing and plot are tight and pack a punch. It’s a mid-twentieth-century classic, and we need to be exposed to the classics since they exhibit well-rendered traits of the time in which they were written and inform our social norms today.”

Despite the nearly 60 years separating the play’s setting and Hesston’s prodution, its message speaks to issues relevant today, Kraybill said.

The Hesston College production, featuring a cast of 12 students, challenges audience members on their own biases by making them feel part of the jury panel.

“The audience can expect to feel like they are part of the jury on the case, simply because of the seating arrangement,” said Kraybill. “Audience members will be seated on almost all sides of the stage and seats will be raised slightly higher than normal, giving the feeling of looking over the shoulders of the jurors in front of them. The entrance to the theatre will be through the jury door onstage, furthering the sense of the audience entering into the story.”

Show times are at 7 p.m. Oct. 3, 7 p.m., Oct. 4, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct 5 and 3 p.m. Oct. 6. The play has a run time of two hours including an intermission, and is rated PG for mature themes.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children 5 or older. Tickets can be purchased through the Hesston College Bookstore in person, by phone at 620-327-8105 or online at books.hesston.edu. Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended. Tickets will also be available at the door 45 minutes prior to show time and are subject to availability.