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The Advocate

Audience to determine play’s finish

Lucy Li, Contributing Writer

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The fall mainstage production, “You, the Jury” by James Reach, is to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.

“It deals with issues considered taboo in the 1950s: sexual assault and women and crime,” said history professor Paul  Newman, who is acting as judge Thomas Findlay.

“James Reach wrote it in 1958, a time when there were limited roles for women in the real world and on stage. And yet the play has three strong female leads,”

“…Its issues are very current and relevant. There are plot twists and turns, and based on those, the jury could go either way,” he said.

The most unique thing about this play is that the audience gets to decide whether the verdict is guilty or innocent.

This is their first time doing a show that the ending depends on what the audience will choose, said sophomore Laken Burkhardt, who is acting as Janice Scott in the play.

Although it is to be a first time for actors when the audience gets to choose the ending, she said they are not stressed about it and that there haven’t been any problems.

Junior actor Erin White agreed that there haven’t been problems.

“It is one of the smoother plays we have,” said White, who is acting as Barbara Scott in the play.

“(It’s) really enjoyable. (We are) really excited,” said White.

When speaking of which ending she thinks the audience will choose, Burkhardt said she has no idea. “(It) depends on their mentality. Some people come thinking they know which ending they would choose. But, when they see the show, the facts will (determine) how the ending will be,” she said.

Although everything seems to be going well, the actors also face some challenges.

According to Newman, one of the most challenging parts about his role is that his character has a personality opposite his own.

“I tend to see and react to humor in most things.

“But acting is about crawling into the skin of another person and their character, and coming to understand them, their instincts, motivations, thoughts and emotions, and then portraying that character for the audience.”

Another task that is challenging for him is that he has to deliver all his lines while sitting.

“I have spent a quarter of a century walking while lecturing, so my mouth is really attached to my feet.

“I have a very long monologue at the end of the play when I charge the jury, and it has been a real challenge learning to deliver all of that while sitting still,” said Newman.

Senior Ben Berkebile, who is acting as Jimmy Perry, said one of the most challenging parts is that they won’t know the ending until the end.

“(It all depends on) how the audience is going to react,” he said.

“(It) is a little nerve-wracking compare(d) to a regular play when you know every night exactly how the ending will go,” said Newman.

“(But) it is (also) one of the best things about the play,” said Berkebile.

To be prepared for whichever ending the audience chooses, actors are rehearsing the endings with a surprise at every rehearsal, said Newman.

“I hope many can come out to enjoy this play. It is special,” he said.

Burkhart said she thinks audiences will enjoy the play’s uniqueness.

“If anyone has any stereotypes about theatre, (this) show is going to smash a lot of expectations,” she said.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 a person online or at the Pasquerilla box office.

Students with IDs can purchase tickets for $5 at the box office only.

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The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown's student newspaper
Audience to determine play’s finish