Everyone knows “Twelve Angry Men.” The classic drama about jury deliberations at a murder trial has been performed all over the world, since its 1954 “Studio One” CBS debut. A few years ago Staples Players produced a compelling version, in their Black Box Theater.
“Twelve Angry Men” will be featured at 3 staged readings next month, at Theatre Artists Workshop. The venue is on Gregory Boulevard in Norwalk — but it was founded in Westport in 1983 by Keir Dullea and his wife. Its first home was Pymander Books, on the Westport/Norwalk border. Early participants brought folding chairs, and $5.
The Workshop soon moved to the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School. In 1997 the town reclaimed the school. But — now in Norwalk — it continues, in a venue with lights, curtains, and risers with 99 chairs. Many Westport professional theater artists are members.
But that’s not why this story is “06880” blog-worthy.
It turns out that writer Reginald Rose — who won an Emmy for his teleplay, and an Oscar nomination for his 1957 screen adaptation — was a Westport resident.
Who knew?! (Well, you may have. I sure didn’t.)
Rose lived here in the 1950s and ’60s — so he probably wrote “Twelve Angry Men” in Westport. (The drama was based on his own personal experience on a manslaughter jury.) He died in 2002, age 81, in Norwalk.
Between 1950 and 1980, Rose wrote for all 3 networks. He also created, wrote and won 2 Emmys for “The Defenders,” the 1961 weekly courtroon drama.
And — in another local twist — his teleplay “The Incredible World of Horace Ford” was the basis for a 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode. That show was hosted by former Westporter Rod Serling.
Theatre Artists Workshop’s staged reading features Mike Boland, who performed “Twelve Angry Men” on its national tour, and 2-time Emmy winner John Wesley Shipp.
The Workshop is “a theatrical gymnasium where theater professionals hone their craft, stretch creative muscles, experiment, develop new plays, and get peer review from fellow actors, writers and directors away from the harsh glare of the public spotlight.”
Members have included Anne Baxter, Theodore Bikel, Christopher Durang, Ring Lardner Jr. and Jane Powell — and Westporters Sandy Dennis, Kevin Gray, David Rogers and Brett Somers.
Most meetings are critiques of scenes, monologues and new writing. But several times a year, Theatre Artists Workshop opens their doors to the larger community.
“Twelve Angry Men” is one such weekend. The fact that it has such a strong Westport pedigree adds just a bit more drama to it.
(The Theatre Artists Workshop’s staged readings are Friday and Saturday, February 9 and 10 [8 p.m.], and Sunday, February 11 [3 p.m.]. The suggested donation is $20.)
(Hat tip: Melody James)