Acts on Stage presents 12 Angry Men, based on writings by Reginald rose. What happens behind the closed doors of a courtroom trial, when twelve jurors are tasked with deciding the fate of a 18-year old defendant, accused of murder? The situation quickly escalates, as each juror is called to question his own morals and values, and how personal experiences skew jurors own perspectives.
Available on the Acts on Stage Facebook page, YouTube, and a number of other platforms, is a modernization of the 1954 classic, as reimagined by writer/director Isiah Anderson, Jr.
Isiah is a well-known fixture in Seattle theater, recognized for his long-running Teen Summer Music program, which has brought Seattle wonderful variations of several childhood favorites, including Cinderella, the Wiz, and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.
Isiah’s new program, Acts on Stage, partners with Michelle Lang-Raymond to provide a hub where people of faith can come together to create and perform industry-level dramatizations in a positive and productive environment.
Isiah’s formula for success includes several ingredients. First, finding the right actors for the project. For this, he actively recruited two gentlemen he believed would bring a rock-solid foundation and professionalism to the stage; Coach Craig Jackson and Ernest L. Henderson.
Craig Jackson, an intervention specialist and Franklin HS basketball coach, has a history with Isiah, going back to lip-sync performances in the 80s & 90s. Happy to find that a decade of performing Jackie Wilson and Clarence Carter songs had blessed Jackson with dynamic vocal range, Isiah knew he wanted to work with him. When Isiah began scripting 12 Angry Men, he knew he had found the perfect role for Jackson.
According to Jackson, he originally wanted the role of Juror #10, but grew to love the character that Isiah had chosen for him. Jackson was amazed at how, after initial readings, Isiah rewrote the script to allow the actors to play the characters to their full potential. Jackson can see himself as one day teaching an African American History class, where he could emulate Isiah’s formula to engage city youth.
Ernest Henderson was brought in to play Juror #9, the oldest man in the room. Henderson states that he had to learn to act the part; as Isiah required Henderson’s character to include the grunts and groans that accompany many of us into old-age. A retired Marine and current custom woodworker (hendoshands.com), Henderson had to learn how to “act old”.
Isiah used thought-process exercises to help Henderson get into the mind of Juror #9, a man who had struggled with finding meaning or success in life and is now just running out the clock. Henderson stepped up marvelously.
The next part of the plan was finding a diverse age-range for the cast. The key to success was bringing in veteran actors to work alongside up-and-coming and even first-time talent.
CMG Angel, the most accomplished of the group, has a 30-year history as an actor, with nine individual theater roles to his credit. He and Isiah first partnered in 1992, for a performance of Colors of the Forest. Angel’s most recent appearance is in 2019’s the Year of My Japanese Cousin, playing at the International Film Festival. Angel does not disappoint, bringing 30-years of confidence and experience to the role of Juror #3.
Juror #2, Malik Bundy started at acting at 9-years old, playing Mike Tv in the teen summer musical Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. Over the past decade, Malik has been active on the Seattle arts scene, recently doing a commercial for Amazon, and releasing three rap albums. Malik is available to provide acting, voiceovers, and music-scores for your next project; find him on Facebook, Spotify, and Voice.com.
Local author, Jeffrey Cheatham II, landed the role of Juror #4, the well-to-do snob who claims to hate bullies, without realizing his actions are exactly that.
Cheatham knew the role would be challenging, as the character is the polar opposite of Cheatham himself. Hesitant to take the role at first, he now cherishes the opportunity because it forced him to grow as an actor.
Previously Cheatham appeared in the Copious Love Productions play, titled Hypothetical, where he played a Janitor working to become a schoolteacher. Cheatham says his experience working on 12 Angry Men has confirmed to him that he should be acting. He says the play has set a high bar for future projects, with an expectation that all casts should bring the same positive energy as this one.
In addition to acting, Cheatham is a well-respected author of children’s books; including popular titles What Happened When Charlie Met Claire, Little Bigfella, and Why is Jane so Mad. Find his work at jeffcheatham2.com.
Juror #11 Jaeden Thomas has been acting with Isiah since he was a youth and says those involved in Isiah’s teen summer musicals connect like they are in a fraternity; a brotherhood built on love and mutual respect. Thomas says he had planned on going out of state for college in 2020, but when Covid took away that opportunity, Jae began praying for direction, and 2-days later he came across the casting call for 12 Angry Men. “I’m glad I was here for this,” he said. “Had I left for college, I would have missed out on all of the new friendships I’ve made, and all the new skills I’ve learned.”
In additional to acting, Jaeden expresses himself through baking, with his own custom cupcake delivery service called Cupcakes by Jae. Find these delicious treats on his Facebook page @Cupcakesbyjae.
Gianni Johnson, Juror #5, is the youngest actor on the set. Another graduate of the teen summer theater program, Gianni has grown into a musician and poet, and is actively looking for a publisher for his works. He has been writing poetry most of life, and recently expanding that into rap music. Gianni tells us that it’s natural for him to tell stories in his music, and as such it’s likely that we will one day venture into script writing for musical theater. Gianni’s last acting performance was in Cinderella, in 2018. He’s glad for the opportunity to not only be on stage again, but this time around he’s joined by his father, Franklin.
Franklin Johnson #10, jumped at the opportunity to work alongside his son, Gianni. 12 Angry Men marked a return to stage for Franklin, who performed with Michelle Lang-Raymond’s Heart & Soul Productions at the turn of the millennium. His last acting role was in 1999s, “This is the Story of Me”.
Franklin says he had to shake off the rust, and originally struggled to learn lines and “find his character”, which he originally hesitated to play. “Give me any character other than #10”, he said. “Juror 10 has no redeeming qualities. He’s racist, and he hates everyone.” Franklin didn’t even want to read for it, but his son encouraged him to take on the challenge. Franklin is glad he did. “It was a life-changing project.”
Jay Raymond and Montrel Jackson join the cast in their debut performances, and jump into their roles like established stars. Both delivering their lines with emotion and conviction that can sometimes catch the viewer off-guard. All the more impressive when it’s revealed that Raymond stepped in as a late replacement for a previously cast actor who left the show late in the schedule.
The cast is rounded out by Michael Walker (Juror #8), LyShawn Hunter (Foreman), Isiah Anderson, Jr. (Guard), KyRi Miller (Defendant), and Takashi Miller (Judge). An over-all stellar performance by Seattle’s newest theater company.
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