Insider Story on Twelve Angry Men by Chris Elston

Rehearsal. It is the backbone of great performances. With rehearsal, a performer takes a rough, unfocused interpretation and slowly polishes it into a gem of intense beauty and brilliance. It is simultaneously the most grueling, most satisfying, and the most fun part about being an actor.

Currently I am in rehearsals for the upcoming production of Twelve Angry Men in the cameo role of the guard. With this role, I am in the unique position of not only helping this show come to life, but watching it come to life as well. There is something indescribable about watching all the threads come together to form something mighty. It grants a sense of accomplishment on par with the successful performance of the show in front of a live audience.

Rehearsal is really a journey. It’s all about finding the character and discovering what makes him or her tick. And this is true for any role, whether it be a lead or a cameo. On the first night of rehearsal, I decided up front that the guard should be a brisk, efficient sort and delivered my lines with that thinking in mind. After delivering my lines in this fashion several times, Susan, our director, said, “Don’t get married to that line reading.” As I smiled to myself, I decided it was off to the races. Each time I read the lines after that, I tried a new take on the lines ranging from a completely monotone, disinterested guard to one who behaved like Barney Fife. A great deal of these readings, I would never really do on stage as they would not be true to the character or the show. But in rehearsal, an over the top reading can lighten the mood or even open the way to the true interpretation. In doing these multiple readings, I found several takes which I liked and am now striving to blend them together to form the true character of the guard. And that’s what the journey is all about. Throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.

But in between my scenes, I love watching the reality of the show spring forth from the other actors as they find their characters. As they do this a very special life is created that enthralls me and will surely grip our audiences. Last night, we blocked a crucial monologue for Juror 10 and the combination of his incredible performance and the body language and positioning of the other actors gave me shivers and will surely do the same to anyone who sees it.

So when you come see Twelve Angry Men, think about what might have gone into creating the show and you will find it is every bit as wonderful as the finished product.

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