What if the justice system failed you personally? What would it feel like to be wrongfully convicted, sentenced to death and then released after years in prison?
These are the questions posed by the UGA Department of Theatre and Film Studies’ production of The Exonerated, a play compiling the true stories of six innocent men and women who each emerged from prison after years on death row. Peach Pittenger, assistant professor of theatre and film studies, will direct the play, which will be performed in Seney-Stovall Chapel.
The Exonerated opens Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. Additional performances will be held Oct. 12 and 13 also at 8 p.m., with a matinee on Oct. 15 at 2:30. Regular admission is $8; admission for senior citizens and UGA students with valid I.D. is $6. Tickets may be purchased at the University Theatre box office, located in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building. The box office is open weekdays from noon-5 p.m.
The stories of The Exonerated are harrowing true-life accounts of innocent people caught in a surreal nightmare. Each story reveals an ugly side of an American justice system that is fallible, racist and sometimes purposely corrupt, and where truth and innocence don’t always matter.
The play is minimally produced with a stage and chairs for the ten actors who play the six exonerated convicts and all the supporting characters. The stories are told through monologues and memory scenes.
A talk-back session will follow each of the four performances, with the addition of a panel discussion Oct. 13. Shareef Cousin, who was exonerated after spending three years on death row, will join a panel discussion about wrongful death sentences. Other panelists include Gerry Weber, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia, UGA law professor Donald Wilkes and Kristin Boudreau, an associate professor of English at UGA.
Wilkes has done extensive research on the capital punishment cases and teaches about the conviction and acquittal of the innocent in America in a course on post-conviction relief. Boudreau is the author of Sympathy in American Literature: American Sentiments from Jefferson to the Jameses and The Spectacle of Death: Populist Literary Responses to American Capital Cases.