By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief

The courtroom drama 12 Angry Jurors hits the NW Campus stage Oct. 11-14.

12 Angry Jurors is a courtroom drama about the pursuit of justice and finding out what really happened through facts instead allowing feelings and prejudice to influence a verdict.
12 Angry Jurors is a courtroom drama about the pursuit of justice and finding out what really happened through facts instead allowing feelings and prejudice to influence a verdict.
NW student Michael Matthews plays Juror #3, the bad guy of the play.
NW student Michael Matthews plays Juror #3, the bad guy of the play.

The play focuses on 12 jurors as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant based on reasonable doubt.

“The play is really about a pursuit of justice,” said NW drama adjunct instructor Griffin Hammel, who is directing the play. “It’s about finding out what really happened through facts rather than letting feelings and prejudice influence the way we think.”

Hammel chose this play for the fall theater season, in part, because of the story it tells of pursuing justice through facts. He also chose to tell this story because political figures today assume credibility and justify their actions or spread false information that people think is true because a certain politician said it, he said.

“This work is a good reflection, a good look in the mirror that we can take for ourselves and go, you know, ‘Do I do that? Do I know someone who does that?’” Hammel said.

12 Angry Jurors is originally set in late 1950s New York, but Hammel changed the setting to 1990s Fort Worth, he said.

“My hope with setting it in the ‘90s is that maybe it hits a little closer to home, that this can and does happen in our backyards,” he said.

Hammel is also excited about how the set has been designed for the production, he said.

“It’s like we’re cutting a wall off of this room, and we’re examining the people inside,” he said. “What’s really cool is we have an actual ceiling on our set. We’ve never had a ceiling on a set before.”

Other than having a roof, the set is not complicated, and there won’t be a lot of spectacle, Hammel said.

“I wanted to put more of the emphasis on the acting, and the storytelling and the story playing of the actors,” he said. “So while the set is very cool, I wanted to keep the emphasis on the characters and the people telling the story.”

At the beginning of the play, the jurors have a nearly unanimous decision of guilty with a single dissenter of not guilty.

NW student Rylee Jones plays Juror #8, the juror who throughout the play sows seeds of reasonable doubt, she said.

“My juror is calculating,” Jones said. “She’s very factual but also the one person that relates more to the emotional side, that it is a 16-year-old boy on trial and that if everyone is so insistent on killing him, we should talk through it all and make sure without a reasonable doubt that he is guilty.”

Jones likes her characters, she said.

“I love her resilience,” she said. “She’s refusing to stereotype or give the boy any less of a chance to live.”

NW student Michael Matthews has struggled to find something he can relate to with his character, Juror #3, who’s the bad guy of the play, Matthews said.

“My juror is very angry, very close-minded,” Matthews said. “I’m not generally quite as angry. It’s kind of hard for me.”

Matthews believes the play is very close to present-day life, he said.

“It represents a lot of what’s going on in our society right now, the difference between fact and feeling,” he said. “From the play standpoint, I think it’s a wonderful play to experience. It’s not flashy. It’s not showy. The performance comes from the actors.”

Jones agrees with Matthews about the play’s relevance to the world today.

“I think with the casting that we’ve done and the message that it receives, it still poses very real issues we’re dealing with today,” she said. “It’s relatable. It’s relevant. It’s profound. It’s worth coming to see.”

Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11-13 and 2 p.m. Oct. 14 in Theatre Northwest (WTLO 1108).

For more information, contact the box office at 817-515-7724.