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'The Exonerated' Performances Include Discussions and Talkbacks

“Presumed Innocent” author Scott Turow, exoneree Juan Rivera to speak

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April 10, 2013 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “The Exonerated,” the internationally acclaimed play about six former Death Row inmates whose convictions were reversed, is presented in an inaugural collaboration between the Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) at Northwestern University and Next Theatre Company.

Based on the real words of former Death Row inmates, “The Exonerated” is presented on the Evanston campus April 19 through May 5 at TIC in partnership with the Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, at the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive, Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

The April 19 opening night performance includes a post-show discussion and reception featuring “Presumed Innocent” author Scott Turow, exoneree Juan Rivera and Jeffrey Urdangen, clinical assistant professor of law and director of the law school’s Center for Criminal Defense. Proceeds from single ticket sales for this performance benefit the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Exoneree Gary Gauger, one of the people’s stories included in the production “The Exonerated,” was sentenced to death based mostly on statements he allegedly made during an interrogation that authorities claimed amounted to a confession, is also attending the opening night event, but will not be part of the official panel.

(Editor’s note: Press night is at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 20. Interested media should contact James Juliano, Next Theatre’s media relations representative, at James@shoutchicago.com or (773) 852-0506.)

The production is directed by Northwestern alumna Cat Miller and co-produced with Next Theatre Company. Performances of “The Exonerated” take place at 8 p.m. Friday, April 19;

8 p.m. Saturday, April 20; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 20; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25; 8 p.m. Friday, April 26; 8 p.m. Saturday, April 27; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 28; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2; 8 p.m. Friday, May 3; 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at the  Louis Theater.

Featuring a cast of professional and student artists working together on this exploration of the criminal justice system and based on real interviews conducted by playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, “The Exonerated” follows six former Death Row prisoners -- from their trials and incarceration to their eventual release. This award-winning play uses the words of these innocent men and women as they share the stories of what they lost as a result of their wrongful convictions and how they are rebuilding their lives.

Pre- or post-show discussions with community leaders, exonerees and/or members of the “Exonerated” cast and creative team will take place before or after each Louis Theater performance. The following events at the Louis Theater, or as noted, are open to the public:

• A discussion and reception featuring author Scott Turow, exoneree Juan Rivera -- who was freed after more than 19 years behind bars for a crime it had long been obvious he could not have committed -- and Northwestern’s Jeffrey Urdangen follows the 8 p.m. Friday, April 19 opening night performance of “The Exonerated.”

• A talk by Glen Madeja, executive director of the Frances Willard Historical Association, follows the 8 p.m. Saturday, April 20 performance.

• Exoneree Delbert Lee Tibbs, whose story is told in “The Exonerated,” and attorney Christine Agaiby, campaign director of Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, speak during a post-show panel discussion after the 2 p.m. Sunday, April 21 performance.

• Exoneree Jacques Rivera, who spent more than 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and Christine Agaiby, a Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions attorney, speak after the 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25 performance.

• Angela Inzano, an adjunct professor for Life After Innocence, an organization affiliated with Loyola University of Chicago’s School of Law that assists men and women who have been exonerated to reenter society post-release, talks after the 8 p.m. Friday, April 26 performance.

• Lisa Biggs, a Northwestern University doctoral candidate in performance studies, speaks on the role of creative judicial activism in prison systems after the 8 p.m. Saturday, April 27 performance.

• Pre-show discussion at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28, featuring exoneree-in-waiting Johnnie Lee Savory, exoneree Terrill Swift and exoneree Marcus Lyons, who were represented by the Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, will precede the 2 p.m. performance. 

• Tom Verdun, senior staff attorney for the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, speaks after the 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2 performance. The center provides low-income Evanston youth with legal and social work services. Verdun has more than 25 years of experience in criminal defense.

•A post-show discussion Friday, May 3, featuring Northwestern University doctoral candidate Lisa Biggs, who will speak about the role of creative judicial activism in prison systems after the 8 p.m. performance.

• A post-show discussion with exonerees Leroy Orange and Jacques Rivera, and attorney Judy Royal, co-director of the Women’s Project of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, follows the 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4 performance. Orange’s wrongful confession cost him 19 years of his life.

• A 1 p.m. panel discussion featuring Father Dave Kelly, chaplain for the jail ministry at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, precedes the 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 closing performance. Other panelists include two Northwestern students participating in Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University’s Prison Visits Ministry. These Sheil members minister to young men aged 12 to 17 at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago weekly. Audience members are invited to visit a one-day-only art exhibition featuring works by the young detainees that will be displayed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. May 5, in the lower level of Sheil, 2110 Sheridan Road, on the University’s Evanston campus.

This program is partially sponsored by a grant from the Evanston Community Foundation. This production is supported in part by a grant from The Alumnae of Northwestern University. 

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $22 for seniors over 62 and Northwestern faculty and staff and educators; $10 for full-time students at door; or $5 for Northwestern students with advance purchase only. To purchase tickets by phone or for information on discounts for groups of eight or more, contact the TIC box office at (847) 491-7282. Tickets are also available online at www.tic.northwestern.edu.