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The Actors' Gang: The Exonerated, March 24

February 27, 2006
Contact: Press & Media Relations Coordinator (703-993-8794)

For general information about tickets, seating, parking, etc., for performances and events happening at the Center for the Arts, please contact the ticket office directly at 703-993-2787.

Friday, March 24, 8PM

Fairfax, Virginia, February 16, 2006—An innocent man is railroaded after his parents are murdered; a confession is wrangled from a confused black youth; a black man is substituted as perpetrator in a murder in Florida, even though the victim was found clutching the hairs of a white man…These and other nearly unbelievable, shocking, but heartbreaking, tales of bigotry, botched arrests and trials are portrayed with candor and dignity by renowned L.A.-based theater company, The Actor’s Gang in The Exonerated. The company appears for one performance only, Friday, March 24, at 8PM at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. A pre-performance panel discussion, free to ticketholders and beginning 45-minutes prior to the curtain, features Jack Payden-Travers, executive director of the Northern Virginia chapter of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, together with an exoneree.

The Hartford Courant said the play, “takes on a universality through its choice of interviews…” and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette comments, “…it sticks with you…you cannot help but be engaged.”

Playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen crisscrossed the country interviewing victims of injustice who lived not only with the knowledge they were convicted of crimes they did not commit, but also the threat that they were doomed to die, or spend the rest of their days on death row. Exonerations came via new evidence, a jailhouse confession by the real murderer, a diligent lawyer taking the case, or other means. The play also takes into consideration the system’s refusal to admit mistakes as well as the convicts’ own feelings of relief, and mostly, deep regret.

After Blank and Jensen completed their interviews in 2002, director Bob Balaban led workshops with a cast that included Gabriel Byrne, Ossie Davis, Cherry Jones, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, and Debra Winger. Robbins’ company, The Actor’s Gang, mounted the first full production of The Exonerated and Balaban’s version featured Richard Dreyfuss, Jill Clayburgh, Sara Gilbert and others in the original cast for a lengthy off-Broadway run. While it played off-Broadway, the Actors' Gang began to tour it in small venues and colleges. As Actors’ Gang artistic director, Robbins believes in bringing the company's shows out of L.A. and into intimate spaces in different parts of the country.

A gritty and realistic piece of documentary theater, The Exonerated, concludes the Post-Gazette, “like the morning papers, helps get the blood boiling.”

Robbins believes theater is the right medium for controversial subject matter such as the death penalty. "It's more immediate, more involved in its audience. Theater can really produce experiences that, in my opinion, are more profound than film. Good theater. Unfortunately, you know, unless there's a commitment of talent, theater can often be banal. With these, what you get is a really involved experience between audience and actors, and for me, that's where theater lives."

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Tickets for The Actors’ Gang –The Exonerated, are $34, $26 and $17. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit The Center for the Arts complex is located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the deck adjacent to the mainstage Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university lot K. Visit

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT MASON is a program of George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, the professional presenting arm of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The College of Visual and Performing Arts exists to create an academic environment in which the arts may be considered both as individual disciplines and as interdisciplinary forms that strengthen each other. Believing that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the College draws on a variety of professional presenting and producing units where artists from across the country and around the world regularly perform, give master classes, work with students during extended residencies, and interact with the community in a variety of other ways. These programs at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, TheaterSpace, Galleries, Harris Theater, and other venues, provide a diverse selection of challenging and entertaining cultural experiences for the University community, as well as Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C. area. The College houses four academic departments: Art and Visual Technology, Dance, Music and Theater.