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Ending the suspense

By Aaron Odom

Many of you have come to me within recent months expressing excitement and curiosity about what I have in mind for the fall play at Sheridan High School, having either read past columns, or have heard through the grapevine about what plays may currently be on my night stand.

For those of you that have read previous columns and were expecting a Hitchcock thriller, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you, at least for the time being. But, I concluded that the chosen play — while still being a production I would love to see staged — was not the best fit for what the drama club currently has to offer. So, plainly: I won’t be directing a Hitchcock thriller this fall, which disappoints even me, as I’m incredibly eager to have legitimate suspense generated on a Sheridan stage.
Thus, the air had gone out of my sails. An exhaustive search led simply to exhaustion. Having pored over I don’t know how many pages and pages of dramatic publishing catalogs, play synopses and searching for a good story with a decent script, I had to cool my jets for a while and wait for my muse.

After several weeks of avoiding the process, I finally forced myself to look at recent productions of mine and discern what about those productions worked and what didn’t.

Analyzing the past few productions made me realize that perhaps I had been asking a lot of my audience, my casts, my crews and mainly myself. I always love approaching a challenge, particularly challenges that exhibit a feeling of thinking “outside the box,” as it were.

Two years ago, I tackled Shakespeare at the high school level (meanwhile applying several thematic and academic concepts that may have been a little advanced) with arguable success.

Last year, I presented myself with even more of a challenge, perhaps inspired by the fact that I actually achieved the production I wanted with “Romeo and Juliet.”

Basically, that challenge was as follows: not one, but two well-known Neil Simon comedies with alternate casts, spanning two weekends, which would allow more and more audience members to enjoy the show. Despite achieving mainly what we had set out to do with the previous two productions, our attendance did not mirror the artistic success achieved.

Then, I considered the high school production that I’ve directed that had the best attendance, which even caught our administration off-guard: “The Miracle Worker.” Why was this production so well-attended? There were the obvious reasons: “The Miracle Worker” is a relatively simple story, rife with family dynamics and social commentary and had a really great ending. Also, it was a story that everyone — or at least a majority — knew very well already.
So, with these basic formulae in place, my search began anew. I wager to say that what I’ve settled upon meets these standards relatively well, as well as some new ones.

This fall, Sheridan High School Drama Club will present a version of “Twelve Angry Men.” While most of us know the story, or at least know that it’s a good one, I will be inviting the Sheridan audience to a view this story in some new perspectives.

Two big things you might notice: despite not having 12 men to put on the stage (and with special permission from the publisher), this production will have gender-blind casting, and at the publisher’s request, will be produced as “Twelve Angry Jurors.”
To offer even further enhanced perspective, the audience will be onstage with the actors, as the play will be presented “in the round.” This should give the audience the “fly on the wall” feeling that many may have wished for after hearing the results of recently publicized trials. You can’t get much closer to the story than this!

So, there you have it!

I’m sure I’ll have more with which to whet your palate as the summer churns on, but mark your calendars now: Twelve Angry Jurors will run Oct. 10-13 in the Sue Henry Theater. I’ll see you at intermission!







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