My recent involvement with the community theater group Baldwyn Main Street Players may have unintentionally started a social experiment.
In December, I signed on to direct the classic play 12 Angry Men for BMSP. This particular show has a 13-member cast, entirely male – twelve “angry” jurors and one jury room guard, who does NOT become noticeably angry during the production. (So the count in the title comes out right, you see.)
This latest BMSP show opens in the Claude Gentry Theater on Thursday, January 23rd, at 7 PM, and will have a total of six performances. We expect sell-outs. It’s a good one.
Appropriately enough for this courtroom drama, Jak Smith, a practicing lawyer in Tupelo, has been cast in a featured role – Juror #4. Expect Smith, a newcomer to our stage, to masterfully deliver the character originally portrayed by E.G. Marshall in the award-winning 1954 film. He has been doing just that, night after night, for the last two weeks.
As for the demanding lead role of Juror #8, accomplished BMSP regular Bentley Burns more than ably meets the challenge. Juror #3, a dangerous sadist and the story’s chief antagonist, will be handled, against type, by lovable local ham Anthony “Frog” Buse. This deadly-serious role will be the first of its kind for the gifted Buse, who’s played the more light-hearted roles of Rodney Dangerfield, Thurston Howell, and Hee Haw’s Gordie Tapp in recent shows.
Burns, Buse and Smith won’t be flying solo. Talent abounds throughout the show’s cast. Veterans Craig Gaines, Steve Collins, David Jenkins, Greg Lominick, and Jonathan Hancock return to action for BMSP in this one, and they’re joined by first-timers Gregg Tucker, Ricky Murphy, Ken Anderson, James Rinehart and Jamie Gray.
BMSP also tapped well-known Booneville native Marshall Dickerson for the role of Juror #10, a harsh and intense bigot, played by Ed Begley in the old movie. Dickerson told me he expected as much from a “Baldwyn” community theater group.
“Sure, you HAD to put someone from Booneville in the villain role,” Marshall lamented. “I’ll have to have a police escort to get out of town when this thing’s over!”
“So, what about that “social experiment” thing you referred to earlier,” one might ask.
Well, THAT allusion has to do with THIS fact: I am also directing a “chick-flick” in May – called The Dixie Swim Club – which, ironically, has a cast made up entirely of WOMEN, five of ‘em. (Auditions for DSC will be held February 9th, a Sunday afternoon, at 2 PM … for you ladies who might be interested.)
I suspect that I will find a significant amount of material for future columns as I compare the two experiences – directing an all-male cast on the one hand and an all-female cast on the other.
I can already say that directing the men through a holiday-compressed rehearsal process has had a “military” feel to it. While scripts were passed out in December, rehearsals really didn’t start in earnest until after New Year’s Day – with a production opening night of January 23rd! That’s tight. But we all knew it going in, and the guys have worked hard to bring out every nuance of their characters.
In contrast, the ladies of Dixie Swim Club will have more than three months to perfect their show. The men have brought this point up to me on more than one occasion.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that discussions among the men have generally moved to a conclusion like this one: “Well, of course, you know men can get done in two weeks what it will take those women three months to finish … because we don’t have to stop and talk about every little thing.”
I look forward to The Dixie Swim Club’s response to a comment like that. I’ll keep you informed.