Five Loomis Chaffee students presented 12 AM in America, a novel and courageous interpretation of the play Twelve Angry Men, in the Scanlan Campus Center’s third floor Lyons Den on February 27–28. Twelve Angry Men, an enduring courtroom drama by Reginald Rose, was adapted by English teacher Miles Morgan, who served as the show’s director. The unconventional production was the first for Stage II, an initiative of Loomis Chaffee's Theater & Dance Department.
Freshman Nathan Ko, one of the Stage II performers, reflected, “[E]ven the night before the first show, I had no idea if what we made together was even "theater." Turns out, it was not only theater, but a story that communicated clearly with the audience. … [W]e had fun throughout the whole process and made a piece of theater.”
In addition to Nathan, the cast included senior Anya Sastry, junior Manisha Bakshi, and freshman Catie Colton. Junior Isabel Ruppel served as stage manager and assistant director.
Miles said he and the five students who signed up had “no expectations” at the start. The students had limited theater experience at Loomis and, according to Miles, didn’t think of themselves as “theater kids." Some questioned whether a performance by inexperienced actors on a non-conventional stage is “real theater.”
The castmates learned a great deal in the process, Miles said. Through the shared experience of trying something risky, the group forged strong bonds and enjoyed a well-deserved sense of ownership and accomplishment together. It was “magical” to observe as their director, he said.
Miles chose to adapt Twelve Angry Men because “it felt comfortable in a sea of discomfort with the experimental nature of the project, [and was] malleable and symbolic.” Modifying the 12 adult characters into four teenagers posed a challenge, "but the voices of the play are so ‘everyman’ that they lend themselves to being condensed,” he said.
Each year, students turn out in large numbers for roles in Norris Ely Orchard Theater (NEO) signature productions, including the fall play and winter musical, which led Miles and others to ask, “What else could theater look like at Loomis?”
The idea for small-scale theater as an afterschool “team” activity for students came to fruition this winter with Miles as a good fit to direct this group, said Candice Chirgotis, Theater & Dance Department head. Miles has experience acting in and leading school theatrical productions, and he’s helped with productions at Loomis since arriving in the fall of 2018.
The Stage II actors confirm that theater may be anything they imagine and apply themselves to create. Miles says he looks forward to seeing more student and faculty involvement in unconventional productions around the Island.