Syrian Immigrant starring in St. John's adaptation of 12 Angry Men

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Syrian Immigrant starring in St. John's adaptation of 12 Angry Men

An adaptation of a classic play in St. John's will arrive with a timely twist for 2017.

12 Angry Men, which will run from March 14-18 at the Barbara Barrett Theatre at the Arts & Culture Centre, will feature a cast of 12 jurors deliberating over a guilty or not guilty verdict in a murder case.

The twist? One of the 12 jurors will be Syrian immigrant Mohamed "Bob" Shouman, a recent newcomer to St. John's from Damascus.

"This is a very big challenge for me to do this with another language, the English language, and I hope to do this very well," said Shouman.

In the play, his character is forced to contend with the biases, prejudices, racism and xenophobia of the other jury members.

But instead of being a European refugee to the United States like in the original 1955 script for the play, Shouman will play someone with a similar background to himself: a Syrian refugee.

When he heard about the play from director Fabian O'Keefe, at the Association for New Canadians ESL Adult Training Centre, he jumped at the opportunity to audition.

"The people here help me to improve my language. Help me say some hard words," he said. "This was very good for me to do the play."

Play still relevant in 2017

O'Keefe said the decision to look for an immigrant to act in the play was made after noticing the parallels between 12 Angry Men and what's happening in the current political climate.

As United States President Donald Trump targets Muslims with an immigration ban from select Muslim majority countries, including Syria, some of the conversations between jury members in the play are echoing ones happening in real life.

"What goes around comes around and the political situation in the world has come around again I think," said O'Keefe.

"Some of the issues that are prevalent in this play are currently being discussed. Things regarding immigration, things about the court system, things about public opinion, things about facts versus feelings, so there's that degree of relevancy to it."

As rehearsals continue, Shouman is adapting well to the challenge of participating in his very first play. 

He's getting more comfortable being part of the play and nailing his lines during each read through.

But he's still feeling a few jitters ahead of opening night.

"I'm not [just] a little bit nervous," he said. "Maybe a lot."