Juror #4 a Dunrobin actor

CONSTANCE BAY – The curtain closed on the Rural Root Theatre Company’s (RRTC) production 12 Angry Jurors last Saturday night (Oct. 26) and professional actor Arya Landers says her first experience with the company was a memorable one.

12 Angry Jurors by Reginald Rose just wrapped up its Oct. 22 to 26 run at Constance Bay’s NorthWind Wireless Fibre Centre. The play, directed by Ric O’Dell, is based on the 1957 movie 12 Angry Men starring Henry Fonda.

The drama depicts a jury forced to rule on a homicide trial. At the beginning they have a nearly unanimous decision of guilt, with a single dissenter who, throughout the play, sows a seed of reasonable doubt.

Dunrobin's Arya Landers. Photo by Tim Leyes
Dunrobin’s Arya Landers. Photo by Tim Leyes

Landers, who played Juror #4, is a Toronto-based actor who grew up in Dunrobin. This was her first time performing with Rural Roots Theatre. The actor has played Jocasta in Kostas Gakis’ modern adaption of the Greek tragedies From Antigone to Medea in Greece last summer; Follow Your Heart in Toronto in 2016; and on television as a series regular in The Forgotten Chronicles.

She came to be part of the 12 Angry Jurors production thanks to a case of homesickness.

“I was in Toronto, feeling a little homesick,” Landers told West Carleton Online Monday (Oct. 28). “When I was visiting my parents in Dunrorobin my parents noticed the RRTC was holding auditions. So, the rest is history.”

Landers has a Bachelor of Theatre from York University, but her initiation in to acting dates back to her grade school years.

“When I was a Stonecrest Elementary student I was encouraged to take drama classes,” Landers said.

She spent three years at West Carleton Secondary School before moving on and now acting is “my career, my passion.”

What took Landers so long to join the RRTC?

“I was absolutely floored when I found out about the RRTC,” Landers said. “I lived in Dunrobin for 20 years and I didn’t know about it.”

The RRTC’s production of 12 Angry Jurors was set up a bit different then past performances. Instead of using the NorthWind stage, the jury room was set in the middle of the theatre with the audience on both sides of the production – almost a theatre in the round.

“I wanted to do something different,” director O’Dell said. “Something that would inspire not only the cast, but also the patrons that come to the show. I wanted to have them in the Jury Room, to be there, to see what happens.”

As an actor, Landers called the production an “immersive experience.”

“The great thing about how we did it for me, is as our audience left, we hung out and were able to speak to them as they left,” she said. “They said the characters were very annoying, very convincing. The ability to interact with the audience is a gift. I know that for me it makes me more proud of my work and I know we made an impact and that’s an actor’s goal.”

Some of the audience included some of Landers former WCSS teachers.

“That was spectacular,” she said. “It must be about 15 years.”

Although the original movie is more than 60-years-old, the subject matter is still relevant today.

“In Canada we pride ourselves in being free and inclusive,” Landers said. “But there is still racism out there. This play highlights that we shouldn’t use stereotypes, because it’s dangerous. In this case a man’s life depends on it. We’re not always welcoming. This play makes us re-evaluate our ideas and beliefs. We have grown so much in the last 20 years, but people still fall in the trap of racism and stereotyping.”

The 1957 movie had an all male cast. Many productions also use an all male cast, as the play is often known as 12 Angry Men. For Landers, mixing up the cast adds a new element to the production, but also adds realism.

The 12 Angry Jurors cast includes Brian Thompson, Ronald Gardner, Colin Puchala, Harold Swaffield, Arya Landers, Chad Tobin, Dennis Sakalauskas, Ivo Mokros, Greg Geisler, Bruce Buie, Liz Szucs, Jason Matheson and Laura Scott. Photo by  
Judi Paquette Bastable
The 12 Angry Jurors cast includes Brian Thompson, Ronald Gardner, Colin Puchala, Harold Swaffield, Arya Landers, Chad Tobin, Dennis Sakalauskas, Ivo Mokros, Greg Geisler, Bruce Buie, Liz Szucs, Jason Matheson and Laura Scott. Photo by
Judi Paquette Bastable

“My character is very, very logical, but has a boiling anger that lashes out at the end,” Landers said. “Society, historically, feels that it’s more acceptable for men to lose their anger. It’s called ‘hysterics’ when women do it. It doesn’t matter what gender you are we all deal with stress and emotion. It allows for more dynamics. In today’s society you would never have a jury that was all one sex. In the end, hope prevails over some personal biases and we come to a logical conclusion.”

Landers says she is based in Toronto, often known as Hollywood North, but actors can be successful no matter where they are situated.

“The difference is, you have to be willing to travel,” she said. “But I think you can make a career in Ottawa, if you are willing to travel.”

And that’s what Landers will be doing. Her next two productions are in India where she heads Nov. 20. But Landers hopes to come back to the RRTC at some point.

“I really do love Dunrobin and the West Carleton area,” Landers said. “Grassroots performances keep me attached to where I come from. It’s an honour. I’m looking forward to coming back. I will come back to West Carleton. It was a great cast, a great board of directors and great people.”

Next up for the RRTC starts tonight (Oct. 31), with the production of FrankenSteve debuting at the West Carleton Amateur Sports Club in Carp. Admission is only $10. For more information, click here.