USI Theatre presents “The Exonerated,” a play by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, Wednesday, February 15 through Sunday, February 26.
Winner of the 2003 Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Play, “The Exonerated” is based on transcripts of interviews the playwrights conducted with people who were wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. All of the people portrayed in the play were ultimately released, though their lives were forever changed. Elliot Wasserman
, director of theatre, directs the play.
Wasserman was drawn to the play because of its thorough exploration of the flaws in our justice system. He said, “Even before we debate the ethical issues raised by the capital punishment, I think that we should all be fully informed of the possibility that innocent people can be sentenced to death. This play represents the real experiences of real people who were subjected to that horror, and fortunately, lived to share their stories.”
Wasserman continued, “This issue is so important and so topical that we’ve invited Maurice Hamington,
assistant professor of philosophy, to conduct a post-show discussion after the performance on Thursday, February 23.”
Hamington, who holds a PhD in religion and social ethics from the University of Southern California as well as a PhD in philosophy from the University of Oregon, has written books on the application of care ethics to social practices and policies. He said, “I was struck by the philosophical and moral issues raised by this play and the experiences of the real people it represents. One of the characters in particular struck me as a modern day philosopher working to find meaning in his experiences. I am looking forward to hearing audience responses to the play.”
Wasserman’s approach to the production draws from the tradition of readers’ theatre, in which scenery and costumes are minimal, and scripts are in view during the performance. He said, “It is really important to me to make clear that these are not fictional characters telling stories that are the product of the playwrights’ imagination. These things really happened. So we’re following the model used in the Off-Broadway production, with all the environments and scene changes indicated by lighting and sound. I think this helps keep the audience focused on the truth of these words.”
The cast includes USI students Jennifer Ahlfeld, Glynn Allen, Brent Bredhold, Gordon Gorsuch, Mario Reid, Natalie Singer, Daniel Stunkel, Donald Thomas, Jim Turpen,
and Nicole Whitney
. The design team includes USI theatre faculty members Daniel Truxaw
as scenic and lighting designer and Shan Jensen
as costume designer. USI student Sean Nicholl
is the sound designer.
“The Exonerated” runs February 15-19 and February 21–26 in the Mallette Studio Theatre on the lower level of the Liberal Arts Center. Performance times are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. There is one Tuesday performance on February 21 at 7 p.m. A morning matinee for area high school students will be offered on Wednesday, February 22 at 10 a.m. Single ticket prices are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors 60 and over, and $4 for USI students. Season tickets for all productions in the USI Theatre season are also available. Tickets may be purchased by calling the USI Theatre box office at 812-422-3970 or online
. Tickets may also be purchased at the door; the box office will open one hour before each performance.