Upstage Productions returns to stage with 12 Angry Jurors

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Ecole St. Mary's Upstage Productions will be presenting 12 Angry Jurors from Wednesday to Saturday at the Lecture Theatre in Ecole St. Mary High School.

Upstage Productions at Ecole St. Mary High School is back on stage with 12 Angry Jurors, a production adapted from the classic play 12 Angry Men.

The play was adapted by Sherman L. Sergel and is directed by Jason Van Otterloo. The first performance was held Wednesday evening.

Two featured actors are Grade 11 student Nevada Connoly and Grade 12 student Nick Dutchak who play Juror number 8 and Juror number 3, respectively. The plot is the same as 12 Angry Men, but instead features a jury of all genders.

“It’s about 12 jurors and we have to decide if this boy is guilty of killing his father. It’s a very intriguing and keeping you on the edge of your seat type show,” Dutchak said.

Connoly is a veteran of the stage, having appeared in a play with Broadway North and one Upstage production, as well as the production of Newsies, which was supposed to happen in 2020, but did not run due to COVID-19. She’s just happy to be back on stage.

“I think the only way to describe doing this show in particular is just it feels so good to be back,” she said. “I am so grateful to have such a wonderful tech and a wonderful cast and wonderful staff.”

“They have done a great job,” Dutchak added.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Nevada Connoly, who plays Juror number 8 in the Upstage Productions presentation of 12 Angry Jurors, is excited to return to the stage in the production.

Dutchak, meanwhile, is in his first production. He said auditioning for the lead role was a learning experience.

“I have really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s been a challenge. Acting brings out a different side of me. It’s awesome being around a new group of people and stepping out of my comfort zone.”

“Nick’s acting abilities are very impressive,” Connoly said of her fellow performer.

Dutchak said that the play will give the audience something to think about. Connoly said it will give theatre-goers some interesting insight into human nature.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Nick Dutchak, who plays Juror number 3 in the Upstage Productions presentation of 12 Angry Jurors, has broadened his horizons by getting involved in the production.

“I think it is beautifully written play and I think all of the cast members present it very well,” she said. “It’s 12 people with very strong opinions and the vote does essentially have to be unanimous. So just having 12 people just all agree on one thing is very difficult.”
Dutchak added that the audience can find themselves in each character.

“You would hopefully be able to find one person that is like someone you know,” he said. “It just helps you relate to the show and just keeps you intrigued and wanting more.”

Production in the COVID-19 pandemic has also been a challenge. Every performer wore masks during rehearsals, but they aren’t wearing them during live performances.

“It was very weird. We had to adapt to seeing people’s faces again, which is a little odd,” Connoly said before a dress rehearsal.

“It’s hard not to show a smirk when somebody makes a face because you are like, ‘oh man, I have never seen you before,’” Dutchak added.

Connoly added that having a mask covering the lower half of your face while you act makes it slightly more difficult.

Stage Manager and veteran backstage presence Grade 12 student Dori Miller said the production has been going well behind the scenes and she was proud of the entire tech crew.

“Everything you see on stage that is not actors is stuff that we have done backstage,” she explained. “The techs have worked very hard to build this beautiful set and they work hard every day to run the show here with sound, lights, everything you see.”

“We are in black, so we don’t get seen and we don’t get heard,” she added.

Miller explained that production for both actors and techs have been ongoing since October. The actual auditions also happened later in September than usual, according to Van Otterloo.

“It’s great to see it all come together,” Miller said.

Productions are in the Lecture Theatre at Ecole St. Mary High School with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the show starting at 7:30 p.m. with shows on Nov. 24, 25, 26 and 27. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. All audience members will be required to wear masks and provide proof of vaccination for those ages 12 and over.

Both Connoly and Dutchak are hoping to see large crowds. The actors credit director Van Otterloo for all he does for the drama department at Ecole St. Mary High School.

“He has done a great job,” Dutchak said. “He takes time out of his day to help work with us. He has done a really great job and so have our techs. They have done an amazing job.”

“He is the backbone of Upstage Productions,” Connoly added. “(We’ve had) so much help from other people, but the show literally wouldn’t have happened without him. The one thing I really admire about him is he gives us so much freedom with our characters and our creativity.”