12,000 Voices Inspires Voter Registration and Civic Engagement

The Black is Beautiful Project “12 Angry Men” team: Gabrielle Reid, Kimber Sprawl, Tiffany Evariste, Ashley Alexandra Seldon, Ashley Blanchet, Alex Hairston, Bahiyah Hibah, TyNia Brandon, LaQuet Sharnell Pringle, Housso Semon, Salisha Thomas, Gabrielle Elisabeth, Schele Williams, and Jasmin Walker (Photo by Julia Johanos)

The Black is Beautiful Project “12 Angry Men” team: Gabrielle Reid, Kimber Sprawl, Tiffany Evariste, Ashley Alexandra Seldon, Ashley Blanchet, Alex Hairston, Bahiyah Hibah, TyNia Brandon, LaQuet Sharnell Pringle, Housso Semon, Salisha Thomas, Gabrielle Elisabeth, Schele Williams, and Jasmin Walker (Photo by Julia Johanos)

By Sarah Greenman

Inspired by the successful reading of the classic play, “Twelve Angry Men,” by Reginald Rose featuring 12 extraordinary Broadway actresses, producer Lauren Class Schneider has invited women in law schools, universities, high schools, community and regional theaters, and community centers across the country to raise their voices – with scripts in hand – in readings of the play with all-female casts over the weekend of April 5-8, 2019.

Schneider said she chose the name “12,000 Voices” for the initiative because of its aspirational value. “Over the course of time, imagine the reading being performed in 1000 locations, making 12,000 voices.”

Following each staged reading of “Twelve Angry Men,” audience members, cast, and staff will have the opportunity to update their voter registration. Information will also be shared about how to increase voter registration and voter turnout locally.

“Harnessing the power of storytelling by simultaneously presenting this timeless play around the country, we hope to stimulate community engagement on a local level” said Schneider, who has served as campaign staff on several presidential campaigns along with her experience as a Broadway producer. “Because the play makes a powerful argument for the value of civic involvement, it’s a great platform for a voter registration event” she said.

“Rose wrote the original courtroom drama as a teleplay in 1954, some 19 years before women could serve on juries in all 50 states. An all-female cast of this play, at this time, is relevant on so many levels,” Schneider said.

“Right now, we are working with different groups across the country on their April 5-8th readings,” adds Schneider. “I am excited to see how organizations across the country embrace, participate, and lend their voice with their own presentations!”

“When we created the event in September, many of Broadway’s brightest female stars lent their talent, showing their desire to strengthen public service. With the help of League of Women Voters, we saw voter registration and involvement increase.”

Diane Lees, a League of Women Voters volunteer recalled“After the reading in September, I saw a change in the audience. An all-female reading of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ was such a strong motivator to transform spectators into engaged citizens. Watching the audience get in line to register or update their voter information was really gratifying.”

Today, The Black Is Beautiful Project (pictured above), comprised of cast members from Broadway’s “Beautiful” kick-off this nationwide initiative with their own staged reading at 3:30 PM at the Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day School.

The Black is Beautiful Project was first created by cast members of “Beautiful, the Carole King Musical" as a celebration of Black History Month. Noting the greater impact this initiative could have, TBIBP began to explore ways to advocate for artists of color year round. Our mission is to show the importance of representation and opportunity, to celebrate the contributions and achievements of black artists, and perform community outreach for young artists in need of mentorship and inspiration. 

Co-producers of The Black in Beautiful Project’s reading, Daniel Torres and TyNia Brandon said, “We’re thrilled to join forces with 12,000 Voices as the kick-off to this amazing national initiative. Presenting their first and only all African-American Female reading of "12 Angry Men" by 12 Impassioned Women fits our mission. We strongly believe having an all black female cast for "12 Angry Men" will give our audience a new perspective to comprehend and connect with this classic play as well as inspire voter participation and civic engagement."

You can learn more about 12,000 Voices on the SWAN Day Calendar. Readings are happening all over the country today through April 8th. To find a reading near you, please visit the 12,000 Voices website at www.12000voices.com.