The Actors’ Gang Presents ‘The Exonerated’ at Center for the Arts

Posted: February 21, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

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 the renowned Los Angeles-based theater company, The Actor’s Gang, in “The Exonerated.”

scene from Exonerated
Photo by Ray Mickshaw

The company appears for one performance only, Friday, March 24, at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts on the Fairfax Campus.

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, along with Alan Gell. Gell spent nearly 10 years in prison, half of that on death row, and was exonerated and released just two years ago.

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.

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 had 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.

Tickets are $34, $26 and $17. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

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