The stories of six innocent individuals who found themselves on death row will be told at 7:30 p.m. Friday during the IU Theatre’s production of “The Exonerated.”
The play is a documentary drama written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen in 2002 and won several awards as an off-Broadway production.
It follows five men and one woman who were accused of crimes they didn’t commit and sentenced to death. The show is about their time trying to be pardoned.
“This is the story of six real people who were failed by our justice system and wrongly put on death row,” said Liam Castellan, a second-year MFA student and the director of the play.
Jes Harris, IU arts management major and stage manager for the play, said the story is different from ones she worked on previously because it steers away from a traditional narrative.
“It’s not a good-and-evil battle,” Harris said. “It’s a right-and-wrong kind of thing, and it’s about making the effort and putting the work in to do the right thing.”
Castellan said the creators of the play aimed to include a variety of backgrounds in the telling of the story by using a multiracial and multi-gendered cast.
“They wanted to make sure that they reached one of the few women who have ever been exonerated from death row and a mixture of races and experiences,” Castellan said. “But the similarities are kind of there on the page.”
Castellan said the documentary style of the play gives an authentic feeling to the themes of “The Exonerated”, but the burden of accurately telling the stories of these people is daunting at times.
“This has been a huge challenge because I’ve never worked on documentary theater before and dealing with the knowledge that these are real people, these are real words and the extra responsibility to honor that,” Castellan said.
Harris said the documentary style added an element of honesty to what is said.
“It gives a lot more truth to a story to have multiple lines going at once and how they overlap even if they don’t intersect,” Harris said.
Castellan said despite the solemn moments within the play, “The Exonerated” is a story of hope rather than condemnation.
“These are six people who survived, so there is a lot of hope in the play,” Castellan said. “It’s not just darkness and gloom. It’s not a tragedy in that sense.”
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