The Exonerated 10 Year Anniversary with Stockard Channing, Delroy Lindo, Chris Sarandon and Brian Dennehy
The Culture Project is an innovative, artistic endeavor which addresses critical human rights issues through plays, concerts and other media events. Injustice and inequity in America are spotlighted through the collaborative work of artists and human rights organizations whose goal it is to acknowledge that this country has a way to go in embracing the freedoms and values stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The artists and human rights advocates' hope for the outcome of their work is that it inspire independent dialogue and motivate the viewers to action: to volunteer, petition, discuss and support the groups who are working on these issues through critical thinking, advocacy and democratic participation in whatever way they are able.
The Culture Project helped to develop the play The Exonerated written by husband-wife team Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank who had traveled the country conducting interviews with scores of exonerated inmates who had spent an average of 13 years on Death Row before their innocence was proven. Jensen and Blank, using quotes from the freed former inmates, letters, transcripts, court records and case records cobbled together the stories of six individuals (five men and one woman) wrongfully convicted. The docudrama recounts their experiences before, during and after the horrific sentencing when, innocent, they were left hanging in the balance between life and death while their attorneys fought for their freedom and eventually won it.
First produced in Los Angeles by the Actors' Gang on April 19, 2002 and directed by the playwrights, the play premiered in New York City October 2002 at The Culture Project on Bleeker Street in the Village. Directed by Bob Balaban and starring a rotating cast that included Richard Dreyfuss, Kyra Sedgwick, Jill Clayburgh and Rob Lowe, the play allowed actors to dispense with line memorization, sets, blocking and spectacle because they essentially used their voice and their presence to convey the angst, misery, torment and joy of the individuals whose words they embraced in their reading on a bare black stage with armless chairs, music stands holding their scripts and water bottles at the ready.
The play, again directed by Bob Balaban, is seeing its 10th year anniversary with an outstanding cast that includes Stockard Channing, Delroy Lindo, Brian Dennehy, Chris Sarandon, Brooke Shields, Lyle Lovett and others rotating in and out, including one of the individuals who had been on death row, Sunny Jacobs. Jacobs, who rotates in toward the end of September, poignantly presents the story of herself and her husband Jesse who were both wrongfully accused. (The justice system sat on the real killer's confession for many years before anything was done to free Sonny.)Continued on the next page