New Dawn Theater tackles classic courtroom drama

It's a late summer afternoon in 1959 in a jury room in New York, where 12 strangers have been asked to decide a young man's guilt or innocence.

Upon the initial tally in this life-and-death decision - the crime of first-degree murder carries a mandatory death sentence - 11 of the jurors say guilty, while one lone juror casts the sole dissenting vote. After a brief explanation from the holdout, Juror No. 8 - he isn't sure whether the defendant is guilty or not but finds it difficult to sentence the young man to death without any conversation on the matter - the 12 jurors agree to discuss the facts of the case.

The stage at New Dawn Theater in Duluth will become a jury room as those 12 jurors attempt to hash out the details of an alleged murder. Tempers will come to a boil and emotions will take a roller coaster ride as each individual confronts his or her own beliefs and prejudices - and each other - in "Twelve Angry Jurors."

"It's a different kind of play," said Snellville resident Brandi Kilgore, who plays Juror No. 2. "Most plays have lots of moving around and acting, but this play everyone's sitting around a table and you will see some really strong acting."

"I think people who know the show ahead of time and know it's basically about 12 people sitting in a room may have the misconception that it's not a lot happening and it may be kind of slow," said Kate Rasnick, the Roswell resident who plays Juror No. 10. "People have been riveted from start to finish. Even though it does have one setting, there is always action and always intrigue based on the character dynamics."

The personalities, persuasions and motivations of each of the 12 jurors will be revealed through the course of the two-act play.

"Juror No. 2 is interesting because the character is very indecisive," Kilgore said. "My character flops around a lot. She's very nervous. She's very easily swayed by what the other jurors say. She's not a very strong personality."

In contrast to Juror No. 2, Juror No. 4 is sophisticated, getting her point across by downplaying other jurors' intelligence.

"She's the collegiate and she feels that all the rest of the jurors are little peons," said Felicia Walker, the Alpharetta resident who will be performing the role. "Juror No. 4 is not a very nice person but she's fair. She's always trying to get to the source of what everybody is trying to do."

While personalities play a role the ultimate decision of guilt or innocence, personal experiences influence jurors' votes.

"Juror No. 3, he has some major son issues, which sort of color his attitude toward the boy in the story whose case the jury is deliberating," said Suwanee resident Scott Brocato, who takes on the role. "He goes through that sort of in the course of the play."

Gwinnett residents can watch the jury room drama unfold in New Dawn Theater's final weekend run of "Twelve Angry Jurors." For more information on the production, call 678-887-5015 or visit www.newdawntheatercompany.com.

SideBar: If you go

· What: "Twelve Angry Jurors"

· When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

· Where: New Dawn Theater, 3087 Main St. in Duluth

· Cost: $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for students

· For more information: Call 678-887-5015 or visit www.newdawntheatercompany.com