Marc Raby is a busy man.
If he’s not acting, he’s directing or producing, most often at Encore Theatre and Gallery, which he founded and is celebrating its fifth year.
Next up for the group is “12 Angry Jurors,” which presents a new twist on a classic courtroom – or jury room – drama. Raby is directing a number of well-known Birmingham actors in the piece. It runs Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Encore Theatre and Gallery, 213 Gadsden Highway, Suite 108, in the Roebuck area of Birmingham.
Though he’s in rehearsals, Raby took the time to talk a bit about his theater and its upcoming production.
Can you tell me about you and Encore Theatre and Gallery?
I am the founder and Artistic Director of Encore Theatre and Gallery. We are currently celebrating our five-year anniversary this season, and I couldn’t be prouder of our accomplishments.
I have a passion for the performing arts. In fact, it has been my life for the past 27 years. I have dedicated my career to being an actor, director and theater producer. Over the past decade, I’ve had the privilege of touring with various urban theatrical productions, both on and off the stage. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to receive incredible mentorship and teachings from esteemed legends such as Dr. Tommie Tonea Stewart, Beverly Branson, Shelly Garrett, George W. Stewart, Sylvester Rickey Powell, Sherman Hemsley and many others.
I’ve also had the pleasure of collaborating with and working alongside talented performers like Ann Nesby, Brian White, Shirley Murdock and many more. Here in Birmingham, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with other theaters in the city, such as the Birmingham Children’s Theatre, where I performed in productions like “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” and “Miss Fancy: Elephant Queen of the Zoo.” I’ve also had the opportunity to showcase my craft on stage at the Birmingham Festival Theatre in the production of “Choir Boy,” produced by the Birmingham Black Repertory Theatre company. Additionally, I’ve directed as a part of Red Mountain Theatre Company’s Human Rights New Works Festival. I was privileged to direct the staged reading of the first play by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Archibald entitled “Pink Clouds.” I also performed in Quinton Cockrell’s play “Memorial,” also at Red Mountain Theatre
At Encore Theatre and Gallery, we strive to create unforgettable experiences for our audiences and provide a platform for both established and emerging artists. We believe in the power of storytelling and the transformative nature of the arts.
Y’all are doing “12 Angry Jurors,” which people may be familiar with whether they know it or not. Can you tell me about the play?
“12 Angry Jurors,” a stage version by Sherman L. Sergel, is a compelling and thought-provoking performance that reimagines Reginald Rose’s well-known play, “12 Angry Men.” Set in an uncomfortably hot room, 12 jurors gather to deliberate the fate of a young man accused of his father’s murder. As tension escalates, the lone dissenting juror forces the group to delve into a deeper discussion and confront their own prejudices, challenging the strength of the evidence presented.
We picked this piece in particular as a way to celebrate Birmingham’s rich and diverse theater scene and as a testament to our excitement to be a part of it.
Tell me about that cast. Who is in the show?
The cast is remarkable, including Leah Luker, Tarashai Lee, Jeff DeGarmo, Cheryl Hall, Clarissa Lester Kenty, Latrisha Fee-Fee Redmon, Sally Montgomery, Rick Jackson, Jillian Gray, Sam Torres, Sherwanna Wheeler and James T. Billings, along with Andrew Duxbury as the Bailiff. This production promises to be an intriguing journey of performance. These talented individuals bring their expertise to the forefront, offering a fresh perspective on the timeless classic. This distinguished cast aims to captivate audiences and shed light on the transformative potential of diverse perspectives in the delicate realm of justice.
What is it about this play that has made it resonate for decades?
The play’s relevance remains significant as it explores themes of justice, prejudice and the power of reason. “12 Angry Jurors” appeals to a wide range of theater enthusiasts, whether they are familiar with the original play or experiencing this reimagined version for the first time. It’s like watching an episode of “Law & Order” right in front of you, up close and in person.
What’s next for Encore?
We’re gearing up for a season of shows including a free musical tribute show that we hope folks will come back and experience as we pay tribute this season to the likes of Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Fats Waller. We will even be paying homage to the legendary production of “The Wiz.”
What’s next for you?
Hopefully more performance and directing opportunities but above that, my pursuit is to keep the Encore thriving and creating for years to come.