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A duty not to be taken lightly: Malibu High’s courtroom thriller to shed light on complex realities

Lauren Coughlin, Editor
8:25 am PDT April 19, 2017

There aren’t any set changes, eccentric costumes or dance numbers, yet longtime Malibu High School Theater Director Jodi Plaia will tell you that “Twelve Angry Americans” is the hardest show she has ever directed.

“There’s a table, 12 chairs and a water cooler — that’s it,” said Plaia, adding that another challenge is that the show does not include an intermission.

But the thespians don’t need much, because the underlying message is the star of this particular show — one Plaia coined “a really powerful piece” that is more timely than ever.

“Twelve Angry Americans,” which Malibu High will present at 7 p.m. April 27, 28 and 29, and at 2 p.m. April 30, is an hour-and-a-half-long drama featuring 12 jurors who share one heavy burden: determining the fate of a 16-year-old boy who has been accused of murdering his father. The 12 actors are charged with reaching a consensus, and, if they find the boy guilty, he faces the electric chair.

The actors find themselves in an 11-1 deadlock, with Juror 8, portrayed by Malibu High School senior Violet Finn, acting as the compassionate, minority voice on the jury.

Finn’s character, Plaia noted, is at first disregarded by some because she is a German woman. 

“Through discussions and through reexamining the evidence and looking at it through a different point of view, she helps these other jurors see things from a different point of view,” Plaia explained.

Acting as the strongest opponent to Juror 8 is Juror 3, played by senior Taylor Mathews, who has been involved in theater since seventh grade. Mathews describes his antagonistic character as “irrational,” “highly opinionated” and “boisterous,” but said he found the biggest challenge in trying to step into a father role. Juror 3’s biases stem in large part from a poor relationship with his own son.

“I’m not a father and I don’t have a kid, so it’s kind of hard to put myself in the shoes of someone who’s spent their life raising this kid to have it all go to nothing,” Mathews said.

Plaia notes that while the young boy’s innocence is not black and white, the play seeks to expose that many things in life are not. 

In keeping with the metaphorical black and white theme, the play’s set and costumes also stick to a black, white and gray theme, with only small pops of red on items such as the murder weapon, red earrings, red socks and a scarf. 

The show is based on a 1950s teleplay and movie called “Twelve Angry Men,” and it is set in the ‘50s, too. However, Plaia said it has come full circle.

“I think in a way — I don’t know good or bad — well, it was relevant in the ’50s, and it’s relevant now,” she mused, noting that it deals with racism, bigotry and sexism, among other issues.

“They’re all American, but they’re all very different from very different backgrounds,” Plaia said.

Throughout the play, each juror battles with their respective demons as they struggle to come to an agreement with their fellow jurors. 

“It’s very timely with what’s going on in our world right now with the political climate and it’s intended to ask the question, ‘What is justice?’” Plaia said.

Further, it examines the responsibility of Americans, a heavy topic for anyone to tackle. 

All challenges aside, Mathews said he is eager to rise to the occasion when the curtains open next week. 

“It’s a phenomenal play, to say the least,” he said.

Tickets for “Twelve Angry Americans,” which cost $25 for adults and $15 for students or seniors, can be purchased at

“I think that supporting arts in schools is critical,” Plaia said. “I think our community always can benefit from not only supporting the school and what we do at the school, but I think they always get something when they come see one of our shows, whether it’s simply entertainment or whether it’s some message. ... I think that there’s always something to walk away with.”

“Twelve Angry Americans” 

What: Malibu High School’s production of an hour-and-a-half long courtroom thriller, based on “Twelve Angry Men.” The drama features a 12-person jury deliberating the guilt of a 16-year-old boy accused of killing his father. 

When: 7 p.m. April 27, 28 and 29; 2 p.m. April 30

Where: Malibu High School Theatre, 30215 Morning View Dr. 

Tickets: $25 for adults; $15 for students or seniors, can be purchased at

Malibu High’s ‘Twelve Angry Americans’ Cast

Juror 1 Dominic Rouse

Juror 2 Maya Van Dien

Juror 3 Taylor Mathews

Juror 4 Declan Sheridan

Juror 5 William Hamond

Juror 6 Rowen Lane

Juror 7 Sofia Staedler

Juror 8 Violet Finn

Juror 9 Alina Rose Armstrong

Juror 10 Delaney Faherty

Juror 11 Winona Weber

Juror 12 Juliette Larsen