Beck Center Production Explores Death Penalty Injustices

Fri 10/8-Sun 11/7

The award-winning 2000 play, The Exonerated, by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, ran for more than 600 performances Off-Broadway and was made into a 2005 film. It’s now opening at the Beck Center for the Arts for a nonth-long run.

The Exonerated draws attention to how fundamentally flawed the concept of the death penalty is (all developed Western nations have abolished it except the U.S.). Wealthy white defendants who can hire teams of topnotch lawyers are rarely sentenced to death, no matter the certainty of their guilt, while poor defendants, especially those of color, are often rushed to sentencing, represented by overworked public defenders and victims of the urge to find SOMEONE guilty, whether they’re the correct person or not.

But the death penalty, once carried out, can’t be undone, and the play tells the stories in docu-drama form of six defendants who were later found to be wrongfully convicted. In it, the actors who portray them tell the stories of their convictions, the legal work that vacated their convictions and the impact of the miscarriage of justice on their lives.

Local director Colleen Longshaw Jackson, who helmed the performance, says, “What drew me to this piece was the opportunity to showcase human resilience with an honest glimpse of the consequences and lasting effects trauma can have on a person. As we all fight to come out on the other side of this pandemic it is important that we recognize the cost to fight and realize that the effects will last far longer than the pandemic itself. And as some of us commit or recommit to social justice causes across the country we are challenged to ‘Say Their Names’ and ‘Never Forget’ until justice. The lives of the exonerated in this piece matter as well so we say their names and tell their stories, and my hope is that the audience will be inspired to act in some way to make our country a more just and equitable place to be.”

The show runs Fridays and Saturdays @ 7:30pm and Sunday @ 2:30pm through November 7. For tickets call 216-521-2540 x 10 or go to beckcenter.org. Masks are required for all patrons over 2 (not that this play is suitable for toddlers!) and everyone over 12 must show a vaccine card or proof of a negative COVID test.

 

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