By MICHELLE AMOUR | Editor-in-chief
On seven separate dates in October, Pelham’s South City Theater will appear in court. Not a real court, of course, but the theater company will be directing Ayn Rand’s stage production of “The Night of January 16”. The play is a public participation production surrounding the trial of a woman accused of the murder of her former lover. The twist of the room? Production will take place at the Pelham Municipal Courtroom and Shelby County Courthouse, and the public will decide the verdict.
The play’s director, Donna Williamson, said she was drawn to the show after starring in the cast nearly 20 years ago. The production is sponsored by the Shelby County Bar Association and was chosen by the association for the South City twentieth anniversary season as it was “good audience drama.”
“This is a full murder trial,” Williamson said.
The full description of the play is as follows: “On the night of January 16, Bjorn Faulkner, one of the richest men in the world, dies at his 50th birthday.e penthouse floor. Was it suicidal? His business was in danger. Was it murder? His longtime mistress and assistant, Karen Andre, was jealous of his recent marriage. Everything will be decided in the trial of Karen Andre.
Twelve names will be drawn from a list of participants, and these 12 people will serve as the “jury” for the trial. With the jury being different with each production, Williamson said anything can happen.
Williamson has worked with South City for 10 years now. She quickly entered the board of directors shortly after performing in her first show, and then was appointed artistic director on January 1 of this year. Williamson said she was very excited for everyone to see the production and promised to have a good time. Getting permission to use the courthouses as a stage was vital to the show.
“After thinking about it, it made sense to have all the performances in a courtroom,” Williamson said. “We don’t have a set to build, our space is really too small for this show and the use of real courtrooms gives it an impression of realism. Our judge on the show is a true Shelby County judge and was very helpful with her courtroom experience. There will be no fancy lighting or music. It’s a murder trial and he’ll speak for himself.
The show was originally scheduled for late April / early May 2020 for students, then was scheduled to become part of the regular schedule in October 2020. Once COVID-19 hit, the play was pushed back. Williamson said she and her theater colleagues were ready to return to the stage.
“I want [people] to know that the South City Theater is back, and stronger than ever, after being dark for over a year, ”she said. “We don’t usually do audience participation shows, and I want them to benefit from that experience.”
“The Night of January 16” will have performances at the Shelby County Courthouse, 112 North Main Street, Columbiana, AL, on October 8 and 9 at 7:30 am and October 10 at 2:00 am.
Performances at the Pelham Municipal Courtroom, 32 Phillip Davis Street, Pelham, AL, will take place on October 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 a.m. and on October 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $ 16 for adults and $ 13 for students (under 18) and seniors (over 60). They can be purchased online at southcitytheater.com or reserved by calling (205) 621-2128. Masks are mandatory for all participants.