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GMU PLAYERS AND THE DEPT. OF THEATER PRESENT JESSICA BLANK AND ERIK JENSEN'S "THE EXONERATED"

November 11, 2009
Contact: Press & Media Relations Coordinator (703-993-8794)

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GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY’S DEPARTMENT OF THEATER & GMU PLAYERS

PRESENT

A GMU STUDIO PRODUCTION

“THE EXONERATED”

BY JESSICA BLANK AND ERIK JENSEN

DIRECTED BY KATHERYN WELSH

Nov. 19, 20, 21 at 8 p.m.

Nov. 21, 22 at 2 p.m.

Black Box Theater

 

FAIRFAX, Va., Oct. 23, 2009 – GMU Players and George Mason University’s Department of Theater bring Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s “The Exonerated” to the stage this fall. This poignant work seeks to answer the question “What does it truly mean to be exonerated?” through the words of six innocent men and women who emerged from years on death row to reclaim what is left of their lives. Directed by Katheryn Welsh, “The Exonerated” will be performed in the Black Box Theater in the Performing Arts Building on Mason’s Fairfax Campus on Nov. 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 21 and 22 at 2 p.m.

Blank and Jensen began writing “The Exonerated” in 2000 after they took a road trip across America to meet almost 40 former death row inmates who had been proclaimed innocent after having been convicted of a crime. During the process they compiled the interviews of six exonerated people, and then constructed the play entirely out of the interviews and from various court documents and case files. The lines of the play spoken by the characters are the actual words used by the exonerated men and women. They share their stories openly, and the result is an appalling exposure of the police and prosecutorial misconduct that led to the conviction and condemnation of these innocent individuals. The stories are excerpts of lives destroyed and time wasted – one man spent 22 years on death row – but the play also has humorous moments and is a testimony to the fact that hope and faith can survive even in the bleakest of situations.     

Blank and Jensen married in 2001, and in the spring of 2002, they co-directed the first performance of “The Exonerated” at The Actors’ Gang Theater in Los Angeles. The play was incredibly successful, running off-Broadway for two years and more than 600 performances. Renowned actors including Richard Dreyfuss, Jill Clayburgh and others performed the play at various times throughout its run. Illinois Governor George Ryan attended a special performance of the play, and later said it was a factor in his decision a month later to grant clemency to all inmates on death row in Illinois.     

Blank and Jensen won the Champion of Justice Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for their efforts. “The Exonerated” has been nominated for five Ovation Awards and three NAACP awards. It won the Ovation for Best World Premier Play, the 2003 Lucille Lortel Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play and a Drama Desk Award. In 2005, it was made into a film directed by Bob Balaban, and starring Brian Dennehy, Danny Glover, Aidan Quinn, Susan Sarandon and David Brown Jr.      

The GMU Players ensemble is a dynamic faculty-directed, student organization within the theater department. The Mainstage Series provides students the opportunity to work directly with Mason theater faculty and guest artists, while the Studio Series is selected, directed and designed by students. The GMU Players produce eight productions each season. Director Katheryn Welsh is a junior at Mason and previously appeared in the GMU Players’ productions of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” and “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.” She directed “Homecoming” in last year’s Ten Minute Play Festival, and will design the sets for the “The Nerd” in the spring. Welsh is currently president of the GMU Players and works closely with Theater of the First Amendment, and is a teacher for Acting for Young People.

 

Tickets are $6. ($3 For students, seniors and GMU faculty/staff)

Limited free tickets available for GMU students.

All performances are in Black Box. Free parking available in adjacent surface lots on weekends, paid parking available in the Mason Pond Parking Deck. Tickets may be purchased at the door one hour prior to the performance. To purchase tickets by phone, or for directions, please contact the Center for the Arts Box Office at (703) 993-8888.

For information on group sales, please call Kimberly Schall at (703) 993-8600

For Information on the GMU Theater Department or the GMU Players, please call (703)-993-1120.


About Great Performances at Mason

Great Performances at Mason is a program of George Mason University's Center for the Arts, the professional presentation and production arm of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). CVPA provides an academic environment in which the arts are explored as individual disciplines and interdisciplinary forms that strengthen one another. The college prepares students for careers as creators, performers, teachers, scholars, arts leaders and arts entrepreneurs. Understanding that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the Center for the Arts, the professional presentation and production arm of the college, welcomes a variety of professional and world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Students have the opportunity to perform, create and exhibit their work in a wide variety of public venues including a 2,000-seat Concert Hall. CVPA is home to the Schools of Music, Dance and Art, the Department of Theater, as well as the Computer Game Design, Arts Management and Film and Video Studies programs.

About George Mason University

Named the #1 national university to watch in the 2009 rankings of U.S. News & World Report, George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Mason provides students access to diverse cultural experiences and the most sought-after internships and employers in the country.  Mason offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, organizational psychology, health care and visual and performing arts. With Mason professors conducting groundbreaking research in areas such as climate change, public policy and the biosciences, George Mason University is a leading example of the modern, public university.