Winner of the 2003 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play
Winner of the the L.A. Ovation Award for Best World Premiere Play
Winner of the Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Awards for Unique Theatrical Experience
What does it truly mean to be exonerated? The dictionary says it is to be proclaimed innocent after having been convicted of a crime. But what effect does it have on a person—a soul, a life—to have one's freedom and self-respect stripped away and then, ostensibly, returned years later, after decades of incarceration? Based on interviews conducted with more than forty exonerated death-row inmates across the United States, this widely acclaimed play attempts to answer that question. The Exonerated presents the words and worlds of six innocent men and women who emerged from years on death row to try to reclaim what is left of their lives.
Among them is Sunny Jacobs, a mother of two whose unwavering belief during sixteen years in jail that she would be released (despite the execution of her husband, who was innocent, for the same crime) allowed her to dedicate herself to being a "living memorial" when she was finally freed. There is Kerry Max Cook, a man whom "Texas killed a thousand times, and just keeps on doing it" in his nightmares for years after his release. And there is Delbert Tibbs, a black Chicago poet who speaks of his years on death row with anger and bitterness, yet also, as he says, "still sings." All their stories have been compiled and edited by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen to create both a riveting work of theater and an unflinching exploration of the dark corners of America's criminal justice system.
The Exonerated has also received, in addition to the awards listed above, the Defender of Justice Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Court TV's Scales of Justice Award, and the Justice in Media and Arts Award from Death Penalty Focus.