CFA Presents Searing Drama of Wrongfully Convicted Inmates
Award-winning The Exonerated, based on court transcripts, witness testimony, and interviews, at Booth Theatre
The searing 2002 drama The Exonerated is the story of six real-life men and women who were wrongfully sentenced to Death Row for crimes they did not commit. The play kicks off the College of Fine Arts School of Theatre 2019-2020 season
Based on interviews, letters, and court documents, the play was written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen and was first presented in 2002 off Broadway, where it ran for over 600 performances. It moves between first-person monologues and scenes set in courtrooms and prisons. In his New York Times review, Ben Brantley described the play as “an artfully edited anthology of interviews on its own terms, thoroughly involving theater, while reminding you that real life has a way of coming up with resonant metaphors, grotesque ironies, and cruel coincidences that no dramatist would dare invent.”
The Exonerated went on to win a Drama Desk Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award before being adapted into a film starring Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, and Brian Dennehy.
Blank and Jensen crisscrossed the country, interviewing 40 death row inmates who had been freed after DNA and other evidence proved their innocence. These six former inmates recount their interrogations and subsequent arrests and trials in spare, often heartbreaking detail and reflect on their often painful return to civilian life following their exoneration.
“Trying to change people’s perspectives, open them to injustices in the world that they maybe haven’t thought through, I think is a very strong guiding force in terms of the reason we’re doing this play,” says director Judy Braha, a CFA assistant professor of directing and acting, who has taught at two local medium-security prisons for the past eight years.
CFA is partnering with the New England Innocence Project and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground to host three talk-back panel discussions that will explore in more depth the topic of wrongfully convicted prisoners. Following the Saturday, October 19, performance, playgoers will be invited to a talk-back with the cast, moderated by Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students, and after the Sunday, October 20, matinee and the Saturday, October 26, 8 pm performance, the audience can hear from members of the New England Innocence Project, real-life exonerees, and their families. The Thurman Center will host a reception for playgoers and speakers after the talk-back panels.
The Exonerated will be performed at the Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre, 820 Commonwealth Ave., on Friday, October 18, and Saturday, October 19, at 8 pm; Sunday, October 20, at 2 pm; Tuesday, October 22, through Thursday, October 24, at 7:30 pm; Friday, October 25, at 8 pm; Saturday, October 26, at 2 pm and 8 pm; and Sunday, October 27, at 2 pm. There will be a talk-back with the cast following the October 19 performance, moderated by Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students, and panel discussions with New England Innocence Project members and actual exonerees and their families, following the 2 pm matinee on Sunday, October 20, and the 8 pm performance on Saturday, October 26. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for BU alumni, and free for students, faculty, and staff with a BU ID at the door, day of performance, subject to availability.