I’ve now received sufficient inquiries from readers to justify the risk of colliding my worlds as a professional stage director, an ethicist and a blogger.
The final production of my quixotic theater company in Arlington, Virginia, “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose, is playing through August 8. After that, the American Century Theater closes its metaphorical curtains (we perform in a black box theater, in the round for this show) forevermore after 2o rewarding, daring, frustrating years. I know a lot of Ethics Alarms readers live in the Washington D.C, area, and I would love to meet you face to face for a change, which, if you come to a performance, is easy (though you have to let me know when—I don’t see every one.)
You can get information and make reservations here; there are some representative reviews of the show here and here. Some background on the theater’s closing is here. I’ve written about some ethics issues in the movie (which is the script I directed for the stage) here, here and here.
For many reasons, this is as good a version of the story as you are ever likely to see, and in all honesty and modesty, that includes the classic movie. The script is better live on stage than on film (it is about all the jurors and the jury as a unit, not just Henry Fonda), it cannot be done justice on a proscenium stage; the cast is superb, and the director is a lawyer, an ethicist and a successful stage director who has studied the script for 30 years and directed it three times before to work the kinks out.
If you come, I’ll seat you myself.
Hope you can make it.
Update: You can hear a podcast, hosted by me, about the production here.
Two lone jurors…
In a remarkable example of life imitating art, a single juror, a 41-year-old health care worker, refused to vote guilty with the rest of the jurors deliberating on the case against the accused murderer of Etan Patz, a little boy whose disappearance in 1979 focused national attention on the child predator problem. The defendant, Pedro Hernandez, had delivered an elaborate confession to police, then revoked it. For 18 days, Adam Sirois battled the eleven other jurors, who told him that they were convinced by the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Sirois, however, said he had doubts, too many to send a man to prison for life. In the end, the vote was 11-1. Yesterday, the judge in the case pronounced the jury deadlocked—hung— and declared a mistrial.
Sound familiar? If Sirois was made the hero of a cable TV adaptation, it would be considered a shameless knock-off of “12 Angry Men,” the iconic 1957 jury film that originated as a live TV drama by the late Reginald Rose: Continue reading
Juror 10 (Ed Begley), apparently Obama’s inspiration
Reginald Rose, together with Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky, formed the liberal writing troika that created some of the most memorable and important dramatic works of the live television era. None were better than Rose’s “Twelve Angry Men,” a unique, brilliant, real-time portrayal of ordinary men trying to wend their ways through their own limitations and biases to achieve justice under the law. Among its memorable characters is the bigot in the room, a nasty, hate-filled man who ultimately explodes in a rant against the defendant in a murder case, a member of some minority group—Rose never tells us which, because it doesn’t make any difference which. The bigot, Juror 10, says in part…
“…If somebody gets killed, so somebody killed. They don’t care…oh, sure, there are good things about them. Look, I’d be the first one to say that. I’ve known some who were okay, but that’s the exception.”
Rose, who was a Jew, knew that kind of rhetoric well, the condescending, sneering faint praise of the hate-monger. I wonder what Mr. Rose, whom I once had the pleasure of speaking to, would have said about a U.S. President who had pledged to reject the “politics of divisiveness and hate,” and went on to say this to a partisan audience, as Barack Obama did yesterday:
“And I do believe that there are well-meaning Republicans out there who care about their kids just as passionately as we do.” Continue reading
Their defendant was probably guilty too.
Ethics Alarms All-Star Lianne Best sent me this link about a member of the Casey Anthony jury who is going into hiding because of all the hate and criticism being directed at jury members and their controversial verdict. Her plight, which must be shared by other members of the much-maligned jury, highlights the unethical, not to mention ignorant, reaction of the public to the Florida ex-mother’s narrow escape from a murder conviction she almost certainly deserved.
The problem begins with publicity. We may need to re-examine the logic behind broadcasting high-profile cases. The combination of live courtroom feeds and quasi-semi-competent commentary gives viewers the mistaken belief that they are qualified to second guess the jury, and they are not. They are not because the jury is in the courtroom, and the viewers aren’t. The jury and TV watchers see different things; individuals communicate different emotions and reactions in person than they do on camera. There is only one fair and sensible way to answer those on-line instant polls that ask, “Do you think Casey Anthony should be found guilty?”, and that is “I don’t know.”
Most of all, the viewers and pundits are not present in the jury room. Continue reading