The college’s theater department will perform “The Exonerated” starting Nov. 16.
The play is about the death penalty, told through six real life stories about people who served time on death row and got out of jail.
“The stories will be told by using transcript interviews and court cases that were relevant to those six people’s stories,” said Nicholas Crisafulli, assistant fine arts professor.
Erick Jensen and Jessica Blank wrote the play. Crisafulli is the director.
Six students will assume the roles of the six exonerated—or freed—people, and will also play as supporting characters in the other stories.
Junior Meg West will be play Sunny Jacobs, a white woman convicted to death row in 1976 for allegedly murdering two policemen with her husband Jesse. After 16 years on death row, she was found not guilty of all charges in 1992 after Walter Rhodes, Jesse’s friend, confessed.
“This play introduces a conversation about the American justice system and the problems it had and continues to have,” West said. “We, as actors, are merely telling their stories, and it’s an extremely empowering production.”
During rehearsals, the cast was pushed to their limits as they told the stories about heart-wrenching tragedies, West said.
“This is my third production as an actor at Franklin College,” West said. “Through being a part of ‘The Exonerated,’ I have become a better actor.”
Junior Kevin Dooley said he originally wasn’t going to audition for an acting role, opting instead to help with technology for the play.
But because five of the six main characters are male, he auditioned and will play Kerry Max Cook, a white man accused of rape and murder of a woman in 1977.
After 22 years on death row, and 11 days before his scheduled execution, Cook was exonerated by DNA evidence.
“For me, the fact that these cases are real makes the stakes of the narrative far more meaningful in the moment,” Dooley said.
Crisafulli said he chose to direct the play because the death penalty is an important issue that needs to be talked about on a college campus.
“I saw it 10 years ago, and we all have some sort of connection to someone who has been in jail,” Crisafulli said. “I felt it was a good time to do it this semester.”
Crisafulli said students should see the play because it’s an important script that will make people think about the way the death penalty is employed in the United States.
The play will be performed at Theatre Margot in the Johnson Center for Fine Arts from Nov. 16 through Nov. 19 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.
Franklin College students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid Franklin College identification.