IU Theatre’s The Exonerated brings true stories of wrongly accused inmates to the stage

Nov 10, 2016


Director Liam Castellan in rehearsal with Richkard Saint-Victor (Robert) and Lee Martin (Georgia)

Bloomington, Ind –  Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance will round out the semester by presenting the civil justice drama The Exonerated in December in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre. This documentary-style play uses the actual words of six inmates exonerated from death row, weaving together a disturbing account of their wrongful imprisonments and raising issues of law enforcement, capital punishment, and racism.

The Exonerated premiered in 2002 in a Los Angeles production by Actors’ Gang directed by the playwrights, Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen. The play opened Off-Broadway later the same year and ran for over 600 performances. Blank and Jensen will attend the IU production for Opening Night on December 2nd, and will be joined by Fran Watson, Clinical Professor of Law at IUPUI to take part in a post-show panel discussion following the performance in the Wells-Metz Theatre. Earlier this year, Watson’s IU McKinney Wrongful Conviction Clinic helped free a man wrongfully accused of crimes in Lake County, Ind in 1991.

The production will mark the IU mainstage directorial debut of Liam Castellan, who is in his 2nd year in the MFA directing program. Castellan says of the social relevance of The Exonerated, “Theatre is a fantastic tool for empathy, because a lot of the people that we surround ourselves are like us. Most people in this country don’t know someone who has been on death row, and these are powerful stories, especially because they’re true. There’s a hopeful note in terms of what you can take away from it; the awareness and what you can do with it.”


Assistant Professor Ansley Valentine (Delbert Tibbs) in rehearsal

Associate Professor Ansley Valentine, who joined the Department’s acting and directing faculty this year, will play the part of Delbert Tibbs, who was arrested and wrongly convicted of a murder and rape that took place in Florida. “It’s wonderful to have [Valentine’s] experience and his perspective, and he’s passionate about the social justice angle as well,” Castellan says. Meaghan Deiter (Sunny) and Nicholas Jenkins (Kerry), both 2nd year MFA actors, and 3rd year MFA actor Matthew Murry (Gary) are also in the cast along with undergraduate actors Richkard Saint-Victor (Robert), Lee Martin (Georgia), and Kevin Renn (David). The design team features Jeremy Smith (Scenic Design), Chen Chen (Costume Design), and Sheumais (/Hā-mish/) McHenry (Sound Design).

The Exonerated is both unsettling and compelling in its blend of actual first person accounts with raw theatricality, allowing us to hear directly from those who were victims of the justice system.

WHATThe Exonerated, presented by IU Theatre

WHEN: Dec. 2 – Dec. 10, 2016

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

TICKETS: Regular admission is $25 for adults, $15 for students, $20 for seniors. 812.855.1103 or theatre.indiana.edu. For group discounts contact Abby Miller (millabby@indiana.edu).

For more information or interview requests, please contact Amy Osajima at aosajima@indiana.edu or 812-855-0514.