This week, Brooklyn’s Kumble Theater, in Long Island University, launched its 2015-16 Billie Holiday Theatre Season with the world premiere theatrical presentatiour of 12 Angry Men. The stage event features 12 well-known actors and poets, including John Amos (of “Good Times” fame) and Dule Hill (of “The West Wing” fame) reading excerpts from the real-life stories accounted in the groundbreaking book 12 Angry Men: True Stories Of Being A Black Man In America Today.
The stories told in 12 Angry Men detailed real-life experiences from American Black men dealing with racism at the hands of policemen. These stories included violence, neighborhood discrimination, false imprisonment and wronged identification among other painful experiences that resonated with the audience who heard the words coming to life out of the mouths of the men who read them in the Kumble Theatre.
The cast includes John Amos, Jerome Preston Bates, Chuck Cooper, Jason Dirden, Nelsan Ellis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Dule Hill, Russell Hornsby, Dorian Missick, Roscoe Orman, Michael Potts and Victor Williams.
There were many gasps, groans, sighs and clinching sounds from the audience as each actor brought more life into those printed words as if these stories were their own and grabbing the audience’s empathetic hearts as many thought about how Black racism is commonplace today, especially in the justice system.
After watching the stage reading, my friends, Emmy Award-winning producer Joey Bee and SOULE magazine creator Elijah Li, engaged in a great discussion about how we connected to those powerfully retold stories and wanted to see how to change those narratives in years to come. “12 Angry Men” was one of the most personally engaging theatrical performances that I have attended.
The show is on a limited run until Sunday, October 18 inside the Kumble Theater at 1 University Place in Brooklyn, NY. Tickets range from $15 to $45 and can be purchased at www.thebillieholiday.org.