By Joe Szekeres
It’s fair to say that a sizable number of we community theatre actors have plays on our ‘bucket lists’ either to perform or to direct one day. I am most grateful to the Ajax Community Theatre for welcoming me, as an actor, to fulfil a personal ‘bucket list’ play in their upcoming February 2018 production of Reginald Rose’s iconic courtroom drama ‘Twelve Angry Men’ produced by ACT’s Sarah-Liis Salonius and directed by Scarborough resident, Kevin Shaver.
Mr. Shaver has been involved with theatre in some capacity for over thirty years. Specifically, he has been involved in the Toronto community theatre scene since 2004 but is not a stranger to Durham Region having appeared in ACT’s production of ‘Bus Stop’ and Whitby Courthouse Theatre’s ‘Moon Over Buffalo’. For him, Rose’s play has been on his list to direct at some point after he appeared in a production of it with the Scarborough Players.
A personal belief of mine is if community theatre actors and technical crew are to grow in their love of the craft and art of live performance, they should relish the opportunity to meet new people and to work with other groups. Mr. Shaver agrees wholeheartedly. He explained in a recent conversation that “Each theatre group is unique and have their own mandates, ideas and philosophies. But, at the end of the day, community theatre is comprised of people who love theatre and want to present meaningful and entertaining shows for their communities. Having a strong bond with other theatre groups will only help to ensure community theatre’s immortality. It doesn’t hurt to spread your wings.”
As a community theatre director as well, it has been most enlightening personally to watch the gentlemanly Shaver in action during the rehearsal period for ‘Twelve Angry Men’. He is someone who listens attentively and who knows when to step in during the process. Auditions were held in May 2017 and rehearsals would not begin until December, and there was a definite reason for this decision. The production team wanted “a cast of experienced actors with sound instincts who demonstrated their desire to get down to business on the first day of rehearsals.” As an actor, I concur fully on this account. The talent and enthusiasm in this production will explode before the audience to create riveting thought discussion at the conclusion.
Although Mr. Shaver finds comedies to be his favourite genre, every so often he likes to tackle a good thriller and drama. He offered a carefully layered performance as ‘bad guy with a heart’ Mike Talman in Scarborough Theatre Guild’s fall 2017 production of ‘Wait Until Dark’.
“There is no difference between comedy and drama.” Shaver states. “Comedy is tragedy turned on its head, so drama is comedy flipped upright.
The draw behind ‘Twelve Angry Men’ (and some might consider a hindrance) is the fact this story is a classic from the 1957 film version directed by Sidney Lumet which featured Henry Fonda and many fine actors of the day. The plot is extremely well known. Following the closing arguments in a murder trial, twelve sequestered men must decide the fate of a young, inner-city teen accused of the crime. Initially it appears to be an open and shut case, but the one lone juror holdout leads to heated discussion and arguments on a sweltering summer day.
The question might arise if audiences should expect a duplicate production of the film on stage. Mr. Shaver is ready to dispel that the film will not be replicated. For those who know him, Shaver holds a penchant for the classics and is inspired by them; however, he quickly points out during our conversation that ‘attempting to copy the original would be foolish and just plain lazy. Instead, as a team, this Ajax production will have their own interpretation of the script and, hopefully, will bring fresh and innovative insight into the story.”
The cast of Ajax Community Theatre’s production of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ includes Mike Doucette, Dave Edwards, Daniel Gelbard, Martin Kalin, Peter Mazzucco, Ray Porrill, Shael Risman, Mark Salonius, Paul Sowerbutts, Ian Speiran, Joe Szekeres, Lincoln Trudeau and Tim Westhead. Stage Manager for the production is Teresa Bakker with assistance provided by Daniel Gelbard.
Performance dates for Reginald Rose’s ‘Twelve Angry Men’ will be held at the St. Francis Centre, 78 Church Street South, in Ajax February 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24, 2018 at 8 pm with a 2 pm matinee Sunday February 18, 2018. This matinee performance will also be adjudicated by ACT-CO (Association of Community Theatres-Central Ontario) division.
Further information about Ajax Community Theatre and purchase of online tickets may be found at their website. Tickets may also be purchased at the door before each performance.