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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 9, 2006

Tim Robbins' Actors' Gang Brings 'The Exonerated' To Hancher

The Actors' Gang, the Los Angeles theater company whose artistic director is movie star Tim Robbins, will perform "The Exonerated," based on the experiences of falsely convicted death-row inmates cleared by new evidence, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 24-25, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

A series of special events will preview the issues raised by the production. A detailed schedule of events is accessible at www.hancher.uiowa.edu/exonerated.html.

-- Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno will speak at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22 in Hancher, followed by a "Perspectives on the Death Penalty" panel discussion. Reno will be joined on the panel by death-penalty advocate Chuck Larson Sr., the U.S. District Attorney for the northern district of Iowa; David Baldus of the UI law faculty; and Kirk Bloodsworth, the first death-row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence.

Bloodsworth, wrongly convicted of homicide in 1983, was freed from death row after two years, but remained in prison for eight more years before DNA evidence proved he was not connected with the crime.

This event, co-sponsored by Hancher and the UI Lecture Committee, is free and no tickets are required.

-- A free discussion of "The Death Penalty and 'The Exonerated'" will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library. Panelists will include Bloodsworth and Jeanne Bishop, a Chicago Legal Aide attorney who is associated with Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR), as well as company members of the Actors' Gang.

Bishop's sister Nancy, three months pregnant, was murdered in 1990 at the age of 25. Both Jeanne Bishop and her sister Jennifer are active in MVFR, which organizes murder victims' families in opposition to the death penalty.

-- Bloodsworth, Bishop and company members will be featured on "Talk of Iowa" on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910, at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24. Listen on the Internet at http://wsui.uiowa.edu.

-- The UI College of Law will host a free forum, moderated by Baldus and law faculty member Emily Hughes, 12:40 p.m. Jan. 24, in the Levitt Auditorium of the Boyd Law Building. Participants will include Bloodsworth, Bishop and Greg Reiner, managing director of the Actors' Gang.

Audiences at both Hancher performances of "The Exonerated" will be invited to remain after the show for discussions with members of the cast.

A Hancher pre-performance dinner (not just bread and water) is available in conjunction with the Tuesday performance. Advance reservations are required through the Hancher Box Office.

Both critics and audiences have found "The Exonerated" to be a powerful dramatic experience. Constructed as a series of intersecting monologues, it is a testament to personal courage and perseverance in the face of systemic injustice.

A review in the New York Daily News commented, "Ripped-from-the-transcripts drama doesn't get much harder-hitting."

"I think it all goes back to storytelling," says Jessica Blank, co-author with Erik Jensen. "When people hear the stories of people different from themselves, they can relate in a way that is deeper and more to the heart. We hope our audiences come out asking questions about what kind of society we have, what kind of society we want to have, and what we can do to make it change."

USA Today has reported that with the advent of DNA testing, more prisoners are being freed after wrongful convictions for both capital and non-capital crimes. The pace of exonerations has jumped sharply, from about 12 a year through the early 1990s to an average of 43 a year since 2000, according to a study by the University of Michigan. There have been at least 340 exonerations since 1989, and about half 42 percent (144/340) of those since 1999 were based on DNA evidence. Twenty-two percent (74/340) of these exonerations involved death-sentenced defendants and 18 percent (13/74) of the exonerated death-sentenced individuals were cleared with DNA evidence.

Over the course of its first two decades, the Actors' Gang has been honored with more than 100 awards, winning acclaim for its interpretations of Shakespeare, Brecht, Moliere, Aeschylus, Ibsen and Chekhov, while also developing in new plays.

At the same time, the company has become known for socially and politically engaged theater that promotes civil dialogue. Through co-productions, the Actors' Gang presented the West Coast premiere of Eric Bogosian's "Suburbia" with the Namaste Theatre Company, Roger Guenver Smith's "A Huey P. Newton Story," Danny Hoch's "Jails, Hospitals, Hip Hop" with Center Theatre Group and "Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella" with The Cornerstone Theatre Company.

The Actors' Gang has toured with productions as the U.S. representative at the Edinburgh Festival and to New York's Public Theatre. In 2001 "Bat Boy, A Musical," developed at the Actors' Gang, won the Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics award for best new musical Off-Broadway in New York.

"Thank God for the Actors' Gang," said an article in the Orange County Register. "More than any other company [it] can be counted on to deliver the kind of audacious work that takes risks as it entertains."

Tim Robbins is not only the artistic director of the company, but also a frequent stage director of its productions. He is currently leading rehearsals of a new production of George Orwell's "1984."

The University Lecture Committee at the University of Iowa organizes a series of prominent guest lecturers with the mission of enhancing the learning environment. The goal of the selection process is to provide a variety of unique and memorable experiences for the UI's diverse community.

The Hancher performances of "The Exonerated" are supported by Hayes Lorenzen Lawyers PLC, through the University of Iowa Foundation, and the F. Wendell Miller Fund.

Tickets are $34/31/28; UI student $30.60/15; senior citizen $30.60/27.90/25.20; youth $23.80/15.

Beginning Jan. 17, Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial  319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Even before the box office re-opens on Jan. 17, tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: http://www.hancher.uiowa.edu.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos.html.