FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Under most circumstances, people don’t look forward to appearing in court. But this fall, a seat at the Historic Williamson County Courthouse is going to be a hot commodity. People will be filing in for the chance to witness Studio Tenn Theatre Company’s one-of-a-kind production of the quintessential American courtroom drama, Twelve Angry Men, from Thursday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Nov. 4.
The entire production will be staged within the courtroom – and presided over by the Honorable Russ Heldman, a retired Williamson County judge.
“All of us at Studio Tenn are relishing the opportunity to bring this courtroom classic to life in such an authentic setting,” said the company’s Managing Director Jake Speck. “The novelty of the venue alone has generated a lot of buzz, but we are especially excited about the opportunity to bring a whole new dimension of immediacy to this one-of-a-kind production.”
Artistic Director Matt Logan said, “Twelve Angry Men is such a profoundly important piece, both as a staple in the canon of American theater and also for the way it speaks to our ideas and approaches to justice in our society.” Especially during the peak of election season,” Logan added, “how we as Americans make important evaluations and decisions is at the forefront of our collective consciousness.”
Located on the southeast corner of Franklin’s town center circle, the Historic Williamson County Courthouse was first erected in 1858 and has undergone several renovations through the years.
With bench-style seating for just over 125, the courtroom setting will challenge the boundaries between actor and audience, taking to a whole new level the interactivity and intimacy for which Studio Tenn’s shows have become known.
“Not only are you extra ‘up-close and personal’ as a member of this audience, but you’re also literally part of the show,” said Speck. “The audience and actors will be in the set together. It’s going to be a really unique experience – for those watching as well as for those of us on stage – or, rather, ‘the floor.’”
Originally written as a teleplay, Twelve Angry Men first aired on CBS in 1954. It was adapted for stage the following year, and made into the iconic film starring Henry Fonda in 1957. It was not performed on Broadway until 2004 – incidentally, the same year that judicial business moved from the Historic Williamson County Courthouse to the new Judicial Center on Fourth Avenue.
Speck expressed a huge debt of gratitude to Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long, who was instrumental in securing the old courthouse for Twelve Angry Men – Studio Tenn’s second production in an “alternative” venue but first in a government building. The company made its debut at The Loveless Barn in 2009 with a production of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town.
Another first for the company, Speck will be making his Studio Tenn stage debut in the starring role, famously played by Henry Fonda in the 1957 film. Speck’s extensive professional stage and film credits include two years in the Broadway cast of Jersey Boys and most recently, the role of Steve in the pilot episode of ABC’s “Nashville.”
Legendary screen and stage actor and Franklin resident John Schuck will lead the cast along with Speck. Schuck was Daddy Warbucks in Broadway’s beloved Annie and a series regular in “McMillan & Wife” along side Rock Hudson. His prolific film and television career has included roles in “Law and Order,” “Star Trek,” the 1970’s “M.A.S.H.” movie and many more.
Rounding out the rest of the jurors are some of Middle Tennessee’s finest actors: Cecil Jones, Eric Pasto-Crosby, Henry Haggard, Brandon Hirsch, Garris Wimmer, Jeremy Childs (whom Studio Tenn regulars will remember as Big Julie in Guys and Dolls and Captain Keller in The Miracle Worker), Chuck Long, Corey Caldwell, Nate Eppler and Derek Whittaker.
The remainder of Studio Tenn’s season will continue after Twelve Angry Men at their home venue, The Franklin Theatre. Tickets for all productions are being sold through the Franklin Theatre Box Office, (615) 538-2076 or at FranklinTheatre.com. The rest of the 2012-2013 lineup includes A Christmas Carol December 6-16; Big River February 1-March 3; and My Fair Lady May 16-June 2. For tickets and performance times please visit StudioTenn.com.
*Photos by ANTHONYMATULA and production logo courtesy Studio Tenn Theatre Company.