Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Exonerated

Culled from interviews, letters, transcripts, case files, and the public record, The Exonerated tells the true stories of six people sent to Death Row for crimes they did not commit. In this 90 minute, intermissionless play, we meet Kerry, a sensitive Texan brutalized on Texas' death row for 22 years before being freed by DNA evidence; and Gary, a Midwestern organic farmer condemned for the murder of his own parents and later exonerated when two motorcycle gang members confess to the crime. We are introduced to Robert, an African-American horse groomer who spent seven years on Florida's death row for the murder of a white woman before evidence emerged that the victim was found clutching hair from a Caucasian attacker. We hear from David, a shy man with aspirations to the ministry, bullied into confessing at 18 to a robbery/murder he had nothing to do with, scarred from a youth spent in prison and struggling to regain his faith; and from Sunny, a bright-spirited hippie who spent 17 years in prison, along with her husband, for the murder of two police officers while another suspect had written a confession that was repeatedly discounted by authorities. And we meet Delbert, a poet who serves as the play's center, convicted of a rape/murder in the Deep South of the 1970s and later freed when evidence surfaced suggesting that he was not even in the state when the crime occurred. Moving between first-person monologues and scenes set in courtrooms and prisons, the six interwoven stories paint a picture of an American criminal justice system gone horribly wrong and of six brave souls who persevered to survive it.

In spring of 2002, "The Exonerated" authors Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen co-directed a critically acclaimed production of The Exonerated at the Los Angeles Actors' Gang Theater under the Artistic Direction of Tim Robbins. Under Bob Balaban's direction, The Exonerated played Off-Broadway (over 600 performances) and toured for 27 weeks across the country. The Exonerated has also been performed at the United Nations and for Washington audiences including Senator Patrick Leahy, Former Atty. General Janet Reno, Former U.S. Atty. Mary Jo White, Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and several members of the Justice Department.

In 2002, Blank and Jensen were invited to present The Exonerated for Governor George Ryan of Illinois, as he was considering whether to commute the sentences of over 140 Illinois death row inmates. That performance took place at the 2002 National Gathering of the Death Row Exonerated, for an audience including over 40 exonerated death row inmates, Governor Ryan, and several members of the Illinois State Legislature, as well as major religious leaders.

The Spokane Civic Theater will be presenting this staged reading on September 5th and 6th at 7:30 pm. Ticket information can be found here.

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