Built in 1905, the Historic Henderson County Courthouse was the stage for many a trial during its 90-year history as the county’s bedrock for law and order. Starting June 30, the historic courtroom will once again be the place where a person’s guilt or innocence is decided, but this time it will be courtesy of the Flat Rock Playhouse.
The Playhouse presents the American theater and film classic 12 Angry Men June 30 through July 18. The drama unfolds inside a jury room where a dozen men weigh the evidence against a teenager accused of murder. Instead of staging the performance at the Flat Rock theater, the Playhouse chose to take its show on the road to the historic courthouse where the audience will watch the legal drama unfold in a truly authentic setting.
“I think it’s the perfect space actually, not just because of its history and the many trials that have been held there but because of the intimacy of it,” says director Neela Munoz. “The Playhouse has 500 seats, and at the courthouse we have 160. Instead of being a fly on the wall, the people can really feel like more of a participant.”
The play is based on the 1997 Tony Award winning revival, but Munoz said people will “see a lot of similarities” with the 1957 movie starring Henry Fonda. Michael MacCauley stars in the role Fonda made famous, while his main antagonist will be portrayed by Ralph Redpath.
Flight Wood Grill and Wine Bar is serving as executive producer, and Flight’s Nancy Hayes Neill says the restaurant is planning special events just for the performances. For opening night, Neill’s husband, attorney Sam Neill, has invited judges and lawyers who practiced at the courthouse to attend the performance.
“The play really lends itself to being held in the courthouse,” says Neill. “We were all over it when they were looking for sponsorship because Sam is a lawyer, and many of his mentors worked at that courthouse. It wasn’t that long ago, maybe 15 years ago that it closed, so everybody’s nostalgic about it.”
In addition to Flight extending its hours on performance days, the restaurant will host different cast members throughout the production run to give patrons a chance to chat about the play.
For tickets, call 866-732-8008 or visit www.flatrockplayhouse.org.