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Phoenix Hosts "Twelve Angry Men"

Staged reading to be performed on both Saturday and Sunday.

As the gets ready to celebrate their first birthday, they continue to offer up unique theatrical productions. In part, they do it for the audiences the shows will generate. In part, they do it to attract local actors to the newest community theatre in the region. 

On Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, July 9 and 10, at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively, the Phoenix will host a staged reading of the classic "Twelve Angry Men", by Sherman L. Sergel, adopted from the famous television show by Reginald Rose. That production, presented on Studio One by CBS in 1954, featured a Who's Who of Hollywood stars, including Henry Fonda, E. G. Marshall, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, and Jack Klugman. 

In this weekend's staged reading, director Ian Diedrich has assembled his own Who's Who of community theatre actors, half of which are new to the Phoenix. All tolled, these dozen actors have hundred of shows under their collective belts. 

"We've gotten so many requests from actors to do some staged readings, specifically this one," said Ed Bassett, one of the three board members of the not-for-profit Phoenix Stage Company. Bassett is also working the reading as the stage manager for Diedrich. "There's been a lot of interest in this show. We wanted to give local actors an opportunity to come up on stage here. But we also want to get some feedback from the audiences to see if this is the kind of show they want to see," he said. 

Making their Phoenix debut this weekend are local actors, Raymond Esposito, John Fabiani, Al Hathaway, John Quinn, Paul Revaz, and Jeff Savage. Joining them to make the dozen are actors who have already appeared on stage including Jim Buffone and Chris Evans ("The Glass Menagerie"), Mike Ritts and Jonathan Ross ("Bleacher Bums"), Patrick Hearn ("Love, Sex, and the IRS"), and Dan Porri ("Bleacher Bums", "The Last 5 Years"). 

Diedrich, who directed Phoenix's initial production of "The Bleacher Bums", admitted to being a big fan of the original television film and hoped to recreate some of its magic, even though this is just a staged reading, in which the actors carry their scripts with them on stage. 

"I love that movie," he said. "But the stage play is just a little bit different. Also, this being a staged reading, you don't really get to break out the tricks." 

However, Diedrich will not just have his dozen actors sitting on stage, reading from their scripts. With only four rehearsals, he has the men moving around the stage (set in the jurors' room of a courthouse) and every one of them using their acting skills. And for that reason, Diedrich sought out the All-Star lineup that will appear together on stage for two performances. 

"I definitely wanted to get experienced actors up there, people I have worked with before, or have seen on stage," he said. "I wanted to have guys I trust as actors for this production." 

Getting a dozen local male actors together is hard for any production, Bassett admitted. "It's not just the Phoenix. It's tough for any theatre. We're hoping this will encourage more male actors to come down and audition," he said. 

Tickets for Saturday's and Sunday's performances are $10 each and are available by calling (203) 632-8546 or visiting www.browntickets.com

In other news regarding the Phoenix, plans for the second season are underway. Bassett said the theatre will announce their second season ("It seems like just yesterday when we opened," he said.) in a couple of months. Meanwhile, on the heels of their successful seat adoption program (all 70 seats have been adopted with a waiting list out there in case any more chairs are needed), the Phoenix will be hosting a mini-golf tournament in October to raise money for the not-for-profit community theatre. Details, according to Bassett, are forthcoming.

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