Humming with fresh critiques about the first half of an afternoon run-through, Soldotna High School students clustered on the half-lit stage in an otherwise empty auditorium.
“What all did we miss?” a few asked drama teacher Sara Erfurth eagerly. “Why are we doing so bad today?” a voice joked from within the group. Others made hushed remarks to those nearby.
The mix of veterans and first-timers rehearsed for today’s debut of “Twelve Angry Jurors”, the modernized adaptation of Reginald Rose’s “Twelve Angry Men to be held on at 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, in the SoHi auditorium.
Before giving feedback, Erfurth directed the group to read through their own worn copies of the play, and pull some missed lines out on their own. Junior Courtney Vinzant, said this is a familiar approach from the much-adored Erfurth.
From the first cold-read to final rehearsals, the students voice their opinions and conclusions on production, Vinzant said.
Erfurth wanted to challenge her students, Vinzant said. Being assertive in her role and the in-depth research the students were asked to do directly improved her performance in school. Previously type-cast for submissive roles, Erfurth chose Vinzant as the Foreman who is expected to keep order among the ornery jurors, she said.
“Every play helps you transform in a different way,” Vinzant said. She considers herself relatively shy.
Vinzant and her peers spent time sifting through major and minor decisions such as where to set the courtroom, to accurately modernized the production. The students were also asked to create a background for pivotal decisions made by their characters, she said.
Everyone developed in-depth histories and personalities for their characters, she said. Since the characters have to be on-stage and on-point for the entire play, this process was critical, she said.
For junior Logan Parks, this is the most drama-heavy play the seasoned performer has participated in. Each character has gone through stages of development since the first reading, he said.
While Parks and his peers explored their options, occasionally opinions clashed. Working through these minor disagreements actually helped elevate the quality of the play, he said.
Experiencing small tensions between each other in real life gave them an actual emotion to use while performing, Parks said. And, of course, at the end of the day everyone was so close no one took anything personally, he said.
As a director, the student’s commitment to this play has been invaluable, Erfurth said. Because it is so rare to have even one actor on stage the entire performance, having 12 in such line-heavy roles was an even bigger challenge, she said.
“I love this show because it has so many big dynamics going on at the same time,” Erfurth said.
Erfurth also chose the play to shake things up a bit. Prior to this show, Erfurth had only directed comedies at SoHi, she said. Giving them varied pieces gives students the opportunity to develop different skills, she said.
This is freshman Naomi Green’s, first time performing at SoHi. Cast as the judge, Green didn’t even know what play she was auditioning for during try-outs.
Green said “Twelve Angry Jurors” has helped her get better interacting with other characters. Although it was originally set in the 1950’s the play still has very relevant themes, she said.
“But I don’t want to give anything away,” Green said.
Performances will be in the SoHi’s auditorium today, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and on Saturday at 1 p.m. Admission is $5 a person.
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org