Midnight Productions produces its first play: 12 Angry Men

Safiyah Anwar-Chuku

Students rehearse Midnight Productions’ upcoming play 12 Angry Men in Bronfman Auditorium. (Safiyah Anwar-Chuku/ The Williams Record)

After three years in the works, 12 Angry Men, directed by Craig Martien ’23,  will finally hit the stage — well, Bronfman Auditorium. Midnight Productions, the student-run production company, which was founded this past February, made no drastic changes to the original stage adaptation. Martien, who co-founded Midnight Productions along with Yaoyue Cao ’23.5, believes that despite the play’s outdated language, its timeless lessons can still be communicated in its original form. 

“I really want to pass the message on to the rest of the Williams community that if you have something you really believe in that nobody else agrees with you on, challenge yourself to stand up for what you think is right,” Martien said. 

12 Angry Men follows a 12-member jury as it  discusses whether or not a teenager is guilty of his father’s murder. The play is a commentary on the racism and classism that besets the American judicial system. 

“[The play] is a really good fusion of a lot of my interests,” said Martien, who is a political science major.  “And at a very basic level, I really liked how the story prompts me to be open-minded to see a different perspective.”

Beyond his own interest in 12 Angry Men, Martien believes that the play is well suited to the College audience due to its academic nature. The play’s seemingly mundane and claustrophobic courtroom setting conceals a deeper exploration of human nature. To truly appreciate and understand the play, it requires the audience to analyze and listen to each piece of dialogue — which Martien believes makes it the perfect play for students at the College. 

“What I’ve really tried to do with this play is a Williams-style socratic discussion about what is going on in the text,” he said. “I think that’s really important for 12 Angry Men, because if you don’t have a critical conversation and dig into each sentence that the characters are saying, there’s a lot of innuendo and beneath-the-surface context that’s missing.”

12 Angry Men will be Midnight Productions’ first produced play. However, the club had  been active before the audition process started. The new RSO hosted screenings for films such as Shoplifters and Memento, as well as an Oscar Awards watch-party. 

Being a new performing arts and film group, Midnight Productions has introduced several new faces to the theatre community at the College. 

“There’s a lot of new people working on the show,” said Thomas Huckans ’26, who is playing Juror No. Seven. “We’re allowed to avoid a lot of the sometimes-entrenched ways of thinking about dramaturgy in plays. We’re allowed to kind of experiment in our own way.”

Rebecca Dodgson ’23 will make her acting debut in 12 Angry Men as Juror No. Six. She has not only taken advantage of the creative freedoms afforded to her in her portrayal of Juror No. Six  — she has also used this freedom to revise some of the play’s outdated and problematic language. 

“In the script, a couple jurors call one of the witnesses a ‘cripple’ after they believe he was lying, and I noted that use of the slur was ableist,” she said. “I brought that up to Craig and we changed it to ‘old man.’”

Martien also found it important to address other problematic areas of the play’s dialogue. “The cast and I held discussions about how racism – together with other manifestations of prejudice such as xenophobia, nationalism, ableism, ageism, and classism – shapes the worldviews and decisions of some of the jurors, and how discrimination functioned in the time period,” he said.

Dodgson mentioned that the omitted word did not serve any purpose in the context it was in. Martien’s decision to cut the slur stemmed not only from its problematic nature but also his belief in its intentionality. 

The entire rehearsal process stayed true to this idea of intentionality. Martien dedicated portions of rehearsal time to ensuring that the actors understood their own characters and each others’ as well.    

“We all got together and  talked about what’s going on, what our characters are feeling, what the important moments [in the play] are, so on and so forth,” said Carl May ’25, who is playing Juror No. Eight. “We’ve sort of built up our characters from this communal understanding of how everything is fitting together, and I think it’s worked out very well that way.” 

Given the amount of time dedicated to this production, the cast  is excited to see the audience’s interpretation of their characters. 

“I hope, at the very least it feels like an authentic look into the headspace of a lot of these characters,” May said. 

“I would love it if I could have a conversation with people in the audience who were familiar with the adaptations because there are significant differences between the movie adaptations and this play,” Dodgson added. “I feel like that can create a really cool discussion.” 

12 Angry Men will be performed April 20-22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bronfman Auditorium.