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Courtroom drama 12 Angry Men at the Empress Theatre

Maren Coates

Maren Coates

The Empress Theatre will stage another play this year, with the drama 12 Angry Men running July 10-14.
The three-act drama is being directed by Maren Coates, who also co-directed last summer’s Empress play, Black Comedy.
This year’s more serious show is an about-face from last year’s quirky play.
“12 Angry Men is clever, deep and meaningful; the characters are very distinct and it’s possible to see a little bit of yourself in every one of them,” Coates explained. “The play also has a unique chemistry because it’s an all-male cast.”
The play is about the 12 members of a jury who have just heard a murder trial.
They must deliberate the fate of the 19-year-old accused, with a guilty verdict resulting in the death sentence.
As the men try to reach a unanimous decision, one juror casts doubt on elements of the case.
Personal issues rise to the surface, and conflict threatens to derail the delicate process that will determine the accused’s future.
“The show examines a scenario that could very well be real-life,” Coates said. “What would it look like if we chose a group of average men right off the street, put them into one room, and dissected their morals and biases?”
“We all imagine ourselves to be good people, but really, we all have small prejudices we maybe don’t see in ourselves that emerge when we get cornered.”
The 13 cast of 12 Angry Men was recruited from around southern Alberta.
“Our cast includes a small handful of regular theatre performers, but we also have several average men — an electrician, a plumber, a sanitation worker, an optician, a lawyer, a retired teacher and a few university students,” Coates said. “The play showcases characters portrayed as average men being acted by average men. And those average men are extraordinary.”
Returning to the Empress to showcase her directing chops in a solo capacity has been an exciting challenge for Coates.
“This play has been on my bucket list to direct ever since I saw the 1957 film version with Henry Fonda. For a theatre artist who only graduated five years ago, a community like Fort Macleod is exactly the place you want to take your next steps to see what you’re capable of on your own. And with a warm reception like we received the last summer, it seemed such an obvious place to do that.”
12 Angry Men runs at 7 p.m. from July 10-14, in addition to a 1 p.m. matinee July 14.

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