Alameda, CA

Alameda High Celebrates a Return to Live Theater with "12 Angry Jurors"

Karin K Jensen

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A teen on trial in "12 Angry Jurors."Pancho Morris

Pancho Morris, Drama Teacher at Alameda High School (AHS), is excited, relieved, and thankful. Starting on November 4th, AHS Drama will present 12 Angry Jurors at the Fred Chacon Little Theater, its first theater performance in two years.

“With continuing Covid concerns, we weren’t sure we could get a permit, “ Mr. Morris said. “But on October 20th, we learned we could go forward with our performances. The kids have been working hard. We cordially invite the community to support a return to live theater.”

An Iconic Play

The play is based on the iconic 1950s courtroom drama 12 Angry Men. The movie version, starring Henry Fonda, is listed among the greatest films ever made. It tells the story of twelve ordinary people who must decide whether to convict a teen boy of murder. The case, which carries an automatic death sentence, is stacked against the boy—that is until one juror stands up to the other eleven, who believe in the boy’s guilt.

12 Angry Jurors explores the difficulties and techniques of consensus-building among a group of jurors whose range of personalities adds to the intensity and conflict. It also explores the power of one person to elicit change. The story invites the audience to evaluate their values and prejudices through the jurors’ personalities, experiences, and actions.

The Value of Theater

Mr. Morris is in his first year of teaching. His background is in film and commercial acting, but his TV and film work evaporated when the pandemic hit. “I didn’t know how long the pandemic would go on. I felt I needed a more interesting mission, a new purpose, a “wartime job.” So I obtained my teaching credential with the intention of teaching performing arts at a school that needed me.

12 Angry Jurors has always been prescient but especially now. The play’s message resonates with students because it speaks to systemic racial injustice. For most of us, there remains the question of whether we are a country that is committed to our most cherished virtues – freedom, equality, and justice for all.

“The students are aware that democratic norms are under threat, and America faces historic challenges as it wrestles with its past, present, and future. Coming out of this pandemic, they are empowering themselves through self-expression, to make art that speaks to the social peril of our time as we try to imagine a better world.”

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Juror #8 with others of the 12 Angry JurorsPancho Morris

The students are excited and grateful for the opportunity. Artemisia C. says, “Especially after this past year, finding this community and an outlet for my art makes me feel good about myself again.”

Maya W. adds, “(Drama) is like a form of freedom. Growing up, I was always told not to be too loud living in an apartment. I really enjoy doing this.”

Sofia B says, “I look forward to being able to do this thing that I love again after two years and doing so with all these incredible people.”

Frida S. says, “To me, this play means a lot because the topic is still relevant. There is still discrimination, and the play’s message, to think logically and not stereotypically, is good.”

Layla L. adds, “Getting to play the lead in a play about social justice and fighting for rights is so cool. I relate a lot to my character.”

Mr. Morris says, “We hope this can be a fundraiser for a larger show in the spring. We would love to extend the theatrical experience to more students and a wider audience.”

How To Go

AHS Drama presents 12 Angry Jurors at the Fred Chacon Little Theater, 2200 Central Avenue on November 4th, 5th, 12th, and 13th at 7 pm and November 6th and 14th at 2 pm. Purchase tickets for $15 each through Eventbrite: bit.ly/AHSAngryJurors. Tickets are also available at the door. The event requires masks and proof of vaccination or a negative covid-19 test within 72 hours of attendance.

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Proud Alamedan writing about our arts, business, politics, and events. I also write about local Asian American history. On Instagram @karinkjensen.

Alameda, CA
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