Jason

So proud of my students

Twelve Angry Jurors Motif Magazine Review

TWELVE ANGRY JURORS rule at Beacon Charter High School

These high-schoolers make quite a case that JUSTICE is more than a tacky tween clothes store

by Marilyn A. Busch

 

Reginald Rose’s granddaddy of all courtroom dramas Twelve Angry Jurors is quite an interesting acting and staging challenge for even the most mature of groups to tackle. Originally airing on television in 1954, and adapted by Sherman Sergel, the script is more commonly known as Twelve Angry Men. My memories of the play and the motion picture are starkly claustrophobic visions of a sweatbox filled with cigarette smoke and the bluster of twelve white men fueled by entitlement and testosterone.

 

How on earth can something this dated be relevant today? What does a script dissecting gang mentality, Americans’ deep rooted bigotry and prejudices against immigrants matched against the the sheer fragility of our justice system….Oh wait…I see what you did there…well played, director Jason Robert LeClair and company, well played.

 

Remarkably this 60-year-old script comes across with the same “ripped from the headlines” feel as any Law & Order episode. In 2015, our culture is still mired in a sweeping distrust of “the other,” and the loudest voices controlling popular opinion, leaving the masses in a resigned chorus of “What can I do about it? I’m only one person.”

 

The play opens with the voice of a judge (Brian Hickey) booming out in the darkness to remind those assembled of their shared civic duty to reach a unified agreement as to the accused man’s fate. Court guard Gabriel Jolicouer ushers the twelve into a room to deliberate and locks the door behind him. Reasonable doubt is briefly mentioned, but a guilty verdict seems a foregone conclusion, based on the eyewitness testimony from neighbors. Eager to be finished with the trial and get back to their homes in time for dinner, the Forewoman (ably portrayed by Destinie Reyes) calls for an immediate vote and –surprise– there is one lone dissenter in the form of seemingly timid Juror 8. Carissa Fortier turns in a clear and intelligent take on the role, urging the group at least discuss the case once through before they decide to end a man’s life.

 

The rest of the group soon show their true colors – first the two lone men in the group immediately challenge her with their steadfast opinions on how this should all go down. Juror 3 (played with great depth and range of emotion by Jean-Michel Pion) emerges as the main opposition to any further discussion to the boy’s case and remains the toughest obstacle throughout the rest of the play. He is backed by the equally bombastic and unapologetically racist Juror 10, who comes to the table with what seems like years of bigotry and fear of “them” (the unnamed ethic/religious group that the accused belongs to.) Dylan McMahon handles the hot-headed character well and delivers his scenes and sense of outrage realistically and honestly.

Juror 8 (Fortier) calmly stands her ground against the tide of opposition and slowly begins to start the discussion. She meticulously examines the story as put forth by the prosecution in logical detail. Their job is not to prove his innocence, she points out, or to solve who actually committed the crime. Their job is simply to prove to each other and themselves that he is truly guilty.

What follows is a very realistic series of scenes where the jurors try to sort through what they were told to believe, what they know for sure and then start to fill in what parts may have been left out of the story. The cast does a uniformly strong job of vividly retelling the court proceedings through the filter of their own opinions and biases. The script is as equally demanding of those on stage to be actively listening to the arguments, mulling over the debates unfolding in front of them and also interrupting when necessary to express their opinions. Timing is everything and this cast’s is impeccable.

 

As the debate wages on the Jurors each have their moment to shine, Juror 11 (Janeida Turbi) is lovely as a resilient refugee who reminds us all of why we are fortunate to have the American justice system in the first place, Juror 12 (Abby Morris) is continually bringing the topic back around to herself and her energetic pronouncements that she “is in advertising!” and the snippily antagonistic Juror 7 (Brynne Clark) manages to have a back handed retort for everyone and everything.

 

Soon others are opening up to the discussion and the tides start to turn towards a possible agreement of reasonable doubt – the first to change their vote is the elderly Juror 9 (played by Hannah Lennox, bringing a nice sense of wisdom and maturity to the role), mild mannered Juror 6 (Elizabeth Woodie), and Cooper Chimene, whose Juror 2 starts out as a timid ball of nerves that manages to fight through her character’s stutter and apprehension to find her voice.

 

Mary Servino as Juror 5 has some nice moments as she empathizes with not only to the defendant’s upbringing, and surprisingly flashes some straight-up gangster knife skills. QuessSymphonee Johnson’s Juror 4 stands tall in her firm belief in the testimony of the prosecution’s eyewitnesses. Her vocal quality and maturity of tone were lovely – a welcome reminder that women need not succumb to that croaky “vocal fry/upspeak” popular culture curse.

 

My hat is off to director LeClair and Beacon Charter School faculty and students as their commitment to mastering their craft and love of storytelling is truly apparent from the quality theater that they are putting on the stage.

 

Twelve Angry Jurors will be performed on Saturday, November 21 at 7:00pm and Sunday, November 22 at 2:00pm at the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, 320 Main Street, Woonsocket (across from the Stadium Theatre). Performances are on the 3rd floor in the Beacon Theatre Workshop and this show is not recommended for children under 13. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and available at the door and at www.brownpapertickets.com

 

 

Linda’s minstrel

What is a hero? Someone who’s courage is such that we strive to be like them. My cousin Linda is a hero, one of my heroes. Her courage is infectious, her hope strong and supported by our family.

It was only as an adult that I began to understand the importance of this family. For reasons I would not like to go into, six years of my adult life were spent without this support system. By bad choices and mistakes of trust, I lost them all. Waking up, understanding what I was without, I came back. I made that choice. Other things have led me along paths that I never thought probable, let alone possible. All the while, my family backed me, loved me, waited for me, and welcomed me home. Although we were not the best of friends, Linda and I were still cousins, still family, enjoying that bond on different planes.

Linda had a fight on her hands that brought the family together and showed what collective courage and support do in a true family. We banded together under the pink flag of hope against that horrible disease of breast cancer in the name of Linda. Her children, her husband, mother, father, brothers, and the rest of the extensions on all sides. We gave and raised funds, participated in awareness campaigns and did our parts. Then, on a day we all breathed again freely, Linda was without cancer. The awareness and fundraising still went on and the family still supported others who now shared our family’s common enemy.

Earlier this year, that enemy returned within the stronghold of our family. With courage and hope, frustration and struggles, Linda now faced Metastatic Breast Cancer. The call went out and the family once again answered. Every branch of the tree, even the spliced in branches of friends, came to support and fight. Like a call for conscriptions in the ancient days of battle, our family grew to a wide net of help and compassion, empathy and hope. Two symbols stuck out to Linda in her fight, from her first battle, the butterfly, the anchor for this round.

I am only an artist. I have no answers. I’d like to finish the story… and she was miraculously cured! But, the story is just starting a new chapter. The hope forever grows, the anchors go into the seas of unsure waters and hold our stalwart ship of Linda and her home in place and filled with hope. This is the part of the story that is written and sung about, the part where the heroes show their mettle and those of us on the sidelines find ourselves either doing, praying, or making a difference in support of them. I am an artist, I used my art and will continue to do so.

On a local television station, I was asked to do a piece of artwork live (complete with interview). An opportunity like that cannot be passed by. I drew an anchor for her, and had the anchors of the show “leap for Linda” in support. IMG_0870 IMG_0872 IMG_0933 Linda_Square_PSPF2015 (1)

That television show was to promote the Providence Street Painting Festival. At the festival, I did an 8’x8′ square dedicated to Linda. I am only an artist, this is all I can do. I spread the word, I make images to help, and I write words to explain what I feel and how things impact my life. I hope that is enough.

When Linda saw the square, when she visited the festival as I was setting down the last words, “Even with a bit of damage on our wings, we still manage to fly,” her face told me all I needed to know. I had helped the hero, I had done my part as a squire to the warrior, a minstrel on the battlefield heralding her glory to frighten the soul of the enemy.

The fight is hers. Her courage is beyond my understanding, but something for me to strive toward as a person. I am her kin, and of that I am inexplicably proud. We do not choose our family. We do, however, choose how we treat them as a testament to how we feel about the rest of our human family. I will be a herald, a minstrel, a court painter, I will catalog and praise her bravery. It is what I can do, it is what I will do.

Will you, my human brothers and sisters join me in this proclamation:

“Cancer will not be the plague of humanity. We will stand, we will fight, we will hope and pray. We cannot be defeated, for we are family, we are one. Though the enemy will try, never will it destroy our hope, our dream of its irradiation from our race, for we are a family of collective courage carrying our warriors into battle. We will not stand on the sidelines and hope the enemy does not get us. There is no nation under the stars that fights this alone. Join hands, join voices and shout to the heavens, ‘We are one family, fighting together, we are the steeds and squires, heralds, and minstrels holding aloft the most courageous knights!’ It will echo in the very walls of creation and it will forever be our legacy. The truest triumph is never giving up.”

I, Artist

This gallery contains 1 photo.

 

I am an artist again! Working toward building a show, I have been experimenting and pushing my limits as far as style and really feeling myself in my work. I have been seeking a voice for decades only to now discover, my voice is what I have been doing for decades that I never considered “good enough.” I hear from everyone how wonderful my work is, the reflex always being to disagree, even if it is just in my head. I have sought after a peace with this argument and have finally, in my 40s figured it out: I am not to be other artists, I am to be me.

Revisiting work

A revisitation of my Spring Carousel work. This time as an 18" x 24" acrylic painting

 

Looking back through the portfolio,  This former colored pencil piece needed a refresh. I was afforded he opportunity at the Providence Art Club to paint it at a benefit art auction.

The Trio

It has been quite a while since I have entered on this blog. Allow me to introduce to you The Trio. I am particularly proud of this Art Nouveau piece. 16″ x 20″ in watercolor, gouache and inktense pencils, I put it on the shelf for two months before breaking it out again to finish. Enjoy.

The Trio

Self-Portrait Meme

Created for my Digital Image course at University of Florida, This GIF (created using Adobe Photoshop) is an assemblage of photos, drawings, and web images that are self portraiture, either directly or suggested.

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The Dance

The first in a series of new angel works.

It is precarious to dance with demons. One takes one’s eternal life into one’s hands. Yet, angels, being otherworldly, risk only the moment of potential danger when surrounded by the serpents and servants of the concept widely accepted as evil. These opposing forces, this heavenly and hellish dance that takes place every time a decision is made in a human life. We do not see the dance, but we are a partner in it.

The Dance

Greg – the answer to “I Can’t”

“I can’t.” Words that are not allowed in my classroom. But I hear them often. Lately as I have been struggling with letting go (now the song is stuck in our heads) for this class and applying the rules of freedom to my work I am reminded of a personal experience like the stories in this discussion’s topic. So, if you’ll allow me to deviate for a moment, I’ll share the unedited for younger audiences version of a story I share with my students when they “can’t”.

Can’t is a four letter word. Sure, there’s punctuation and it’s a contraction, but that’s beside the point. Saying that you can not do something before it is tried was something that as a child I was educated against. Doing was always possible with learning. The perfect example of this is my friend Greg from my days at MassArt. Greg was a painting student. He was older than me by about four years and another four years behind me in school. He was a brilliant painter, writer, and philosopher. It struck you when you met him because he lacked arms. Not from a tragic accident, he was born with nothing but a small flipper on his right shoulder. When he wore tee shirts in the cold Boston fall mornings, he’d quip, “For me, these are long sleeves.” Years of spinal chord reconstruction and more metal in his back than bone, Greg kept a positive outlook on everything, well most everything. There was an unnerving self-destructive streak in him. Getting high was commonplace, and smoking was a staple (you’ve never seen anything until you’ve seen a man flick a zippo and have a smoke using nothing but his toes). This self destruction as we see it from the outside, was his method of living. “I’ve been poked, prodded, put under and operated on so much, there’s not much more to do to me. I’m already just one big scar. Every doctor has told me I’ll be dead by 42 no matter what, so what the fuck, I’m going to experience everything I can before I go.” Greg once told me over ciders in my dorm room. Watching him live in this manner, live with the freedom of knowing when he will die, it was bizarre. He embraced life. He lived every moment as if it was his last, because it could very well be.

[I’m sitting typing this and holding back a flood of tears as I reminisce and flip through the catalog of my senior year at MassArt realizing I have not spoken to Greg in 17 years.]

Greg painted, he painted me. I have a portrait hanging in my classroom (see attached) that he had painted in 1996. The freedom of the line and stroke he used doing this study was deliberate. It was not because he used his feet and held the brush between his toes, with which he had massive dexterity and power and could support his body weight on one big toe. It was his intention to be with his painting the way he was with his life, free. Free of the societal constructs of what was wrong or right, free of fear as to whether he would be accepted or not (within reason), freedom from the constraints that keep lesser men in solitude, cowering in the shadows, he was free because he knew he could very well be dead. He medically should have been dead. With what life was granted him by the divine closed universe, he made the decision to create beauty. Whether he was in the studio working on a canvas or sitting outside the dorm, pen in toes scrawling poetry in one of hundreds of notebooks he filled with fervency, or rehearsing for a performance piece, Greg lived free. Greg didn’t believe in “can’t” either as a contraction or otherwise. He believed in his own humanity, accepted the circumstances given him by the universe and made his mark on the world. That is why “can’t” is not allowed in my classroom. You can learn, you can accept, you can gain freedom. You see, the only true failure is giving up, and if you give up before you start, you’ve failed to give yourself the freedom life offers. You have given up on living. The more you say you can’t the closer you are to merely existing and leaving only the mark of your grave upon the earth.

I’m wiping my tears away from the keys. I lost touch with Greg and I’ve always regretted that. Perhaps that is why I hold his memory in such high regard. It may be a tainted recollection polished and made brighter by the patina of time and the weathering of my life, but regardless, it is my memory of him. He would be 43 now. If he is still with us physically, I will never know, all of my friends from school have lost him, but we share his memory. The bright spot of his raucous and random life, suffering, pain, paint, words and thought will be carried by as many people as I can tell.

“Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!

If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart

Absent thee from felicity awhile,

And in the harsh world draw thy breath in pain,

To tell my story.”

– Hamlet Act 5, Scn. II

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Vocal Exercises

Vocal Exercises Jason Robert LeClair

 

Mom was an art educator giving afterschool art lessons. It was there during grade school that I learned basic design principles and color theory. At age ten, I won my first art contest; an environmental poster competition. This gave me outside proof that my art was good. After all, when your mother tells you you’re a great artist, that is what she has to say, right?

I continued under my mother’s tutelage shortly after she started working full time as one of the art faculty at Mount Saint Charles Academy. Attending “Mount” from grades seven through twelve, my mother helped me stay constant in my sketch work and development as an artist. In class, she treated every assignment with reverence and seriousness. Her projects were challenging and substantial. They directly correlated with what I would learn as a freshman in college. I still have Mom critique my work today.

When I entered into AP art in Junior and Senior year of high school, my art teacher knew how to teach architecture, but not fine art. For him, AP meant Auto Pilot; at least when it came to my best friend, Michael and myself. We did whatever we pleased as long as we were making art. So Mike and I turned to Mom and each other for feedback and guidance. With that help, I developed a portfolio that earned my acceptance at every school to which I applied. RISD was my top choice, but I was not able to afford it. I received moneys from the Hartford Art School in Connecticut and began my higher education there.

Great influences on me as an artist came out of my years at Hartford. My freshman year I was exposed to all types of art and materials that I would not have otherwise encountered. I fell in love with sculpture, and with drawing all over again. But the real definitive portion of those years was my work-study. I took a job in the technical theatre department of the University. My father was an industrial arts teacher and I had picked up a great number of woodworking skills from him. In the work-study, I learned how to apply them artistically to create practical and aesthetic scenery and props. In that scene shop I learned to paint.

Due to funding issues I had to find another school. I transferred to Massachusetts College of Art. Switching my major from illustration to Studio for Interrelated Media. SIM, is where I grew to appreciate experimentation and development of artistic voice. I graduated from Mass Art and began “real life.” Years went by and I worked in corporate America as a manager, sketching at every free moment, unsatisfied and dying to be an artist.

As it would happen, my mother was the one to help me out of this. She told me of a position at an all girls’ Catholic school for a theatre teacher. I applied for the job on a long shot. Needless to say, that position started my arts education career. For eight years I developed curriculum and taught everything from scenic painting and construction to Shakespeare.

A year prior to taking this position, I had made the worst decision of my life that generated the best the universe had to offer me. I married too young, too quickly, and too desperately. I do not wish to revisit it, but suffice to say, I ended it. I was left with two beautiful little girls and through my first job, had met my soul mate a year after I ended my marriage.

Finding that person, who has been the most inspirational and supportive partner an artist or man could hope for. Gina, my soul mate, my wife, my Angel, has given me the drive and purpose to again pursue my art. Moreover, having remarried without an annulment, I was forced to resign from my job at the all girls’ Catholic school. That brings me to my present position. I was brought on as the “artist in residence” at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, a position created for me. Proceeding to get certified I took all of the education courses I hadn’t needed to at a Catholic school. I earned a dual certification in K-12 Art and Theatre. Last year I was able to pay Gina back for her love and support. As miracles happen, last year she needed a kidney and I was her exact match. I shed 60lbs. in five months in order to donate my kidney. We have saved each other and are both preparing for a better future by getting our masters degrees. The universe has given me a partner, a career, a future, and a generation to educate that will follow their own footsteps and find their own artistic voices.

VocalExercises_JRLSML

 

More experiments with digital painting

So, I’ve been taking my old sketches and previous work to try and ramp up my skills at digital painting. Let me know what you think.

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