THE EXONERATED to Run 2/19-3/9 at Delaware Theatre Company
At a time in Delaware where this topic could be no less poignant, Delaware Theatre Company is proud to announce the Delaware Valley Regional Premier of THE EXONERATED this February. Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, and directed by David Bradley, this critically acclaimed play induces a visceral reaction to stories of people unjustly sentenced to death.
THE EXONERATED began its journey over the summer of 2000, when authors Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen traveled across the United States, interviewing 40 of the (then) 89 former death row prisoners. The interviewees were from vastly different ethnic, religious and educational backgrounds. Their views on the world varied greatly. The only thing that they had in common was that all 40 had been sentenced to death, spent anywhere from 2 to 22 years on death row and were subsequently found innocent and freed by the state. Their interviews form the core of THE EXONERATED.
"In THE EXONERATED, we are brought together with the stories of real people, from our country and in our times, who became entangled in the workings of the legal system we trust to uphold our cherished ideal of liberty and justice for all," says Bradley. "In this play, what a Supreme Court justice once called 'the unreal dream of the innocent man convicted becomes bracingly real. And all of us, those onstage and those of us in the audience, share in it together."
"The news of new evidence exonerating death row inmates has been all over nowadays, and Delaware's only legislature is hearing a case on it now", says Bud Martin, Executive Director of DTC, "We are not taking a stance on the death penalty, only on Justice."
The cast, directed by David Bradley, includes notable actors and actresses including Anthony Lawton, Megan Bellwoar, Susan Riley Stevens, David Alan Anderson (DTC's Looking Over the President's Shoulder), Akeem Davis, Tom Byrn, Dan Hodge (DTC's Around the World in 80 Days), Frank X, William Zielinski, and Aimé Donna Kelly.
Wholly unplanned is the parallel between DTC's production of THE EXONERATED and the real life events that are occurring in Delaware's legislature. On March 26, 2013, Senate Bill 19, an act to repeal the death penalty in Delaware, narrowly passed the State Senate with a vote of 11-10. Since then, S.B. 19 has been tabled in the House of Representatives, leaving supporters unsure if the bill will ever make it out of committee for a vote. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1992, Delaware has carried out 16 executions.
Delaware Theatre Company will host a Panel Discussion on March 1st at 4pm featuring Senator Karen Peterson, the sponsor of S.B. 19, along with four other panelists who will bring their unique insights to this topic. Their professions range from academia, the Public Defender's Office, and the Attorney General's Office. The Panel, entitled "Justice for All: Access to and Navigation of the American Judicial System" aims to explore topics such as the impact of economics on a person's accessibility to representation, the way presumption of guilt or innocence affects how a defendant is treated during the pre-trial process, the questions of constitutionality surrounding capital punishment, and the reentry and reconciliation of those released back into society from a prison term. Entry to the panel is free with a ticket stub to any performance of THE EXONERATED.
Delaware Theatre Company will also host a series of talkbacks, aimed at allowing the public to witness first-hand the effect wrongful convictions have on those who are incarcerated. On February 27th, following the 7pm performance, Kerry Max Cook, whose story is featured in THE EXONERATED, will take the stage and share the story of his 22 year stay on death row for a crime he didn't commit. The evidence used to convict Cook was found to be entirely misguided, DNA taken from the victim did not match his own, and his case was twice overturned by the higher courts before ultimately leading to a negotiated resolution that included his release.