Art as Experience
24 September 2012
I had the privilege of seeing The Culture Project’s 10th Anniversary revival of The Exonerated. I missed it the first time around, but I remember hearing much about it. A friend of mine was at the time working in Alabama as a defense attorney on death row cases, and she’d urged me to see it. I’m glad I had this second chance.
The idea that people are wrongly accused for capital crimes is now, if not “well-known,” much better known than it was in 1992. So the impact of the play may not have been as strong as it would have been had I seen it 10 years ago. And yet still… maybe the measure of its success as art, in addition to documentation, is that I walked out of there feeling a lot of different things simultaneously: grateful, for my freedom and my life; moved and inspired, by the enlargement of soul that these “characters” demonstrated after losing so many years of their lives, after losing, really, their very lives; frightened, that we live in a society whose justice system is so deeply flawed; ashamed, of my pettiness and limits of character; envious, of the depth and breadth of love these people, these exonerated, had given and received throughout their struggle. It would be foolhardy to imagine that I would become a different person after seeing the show, but I do truly feel changed, in some invisible but significant way, for seeing it.
The cast rotates (brilliant for publicity, and for the show itself), and we had the good fortune of an amazing group, including Chris Sarandon, Stockard Channing, Delroy Lindo, JD Williams, and a non-rotating cast who performed impeccably.
Related, filmmaker Errol Morris spoke on this week’s “On the Media” about Jeffrey MacDonald, a man sentenced to death 30 years ago for the murder of his wife and daughters. Morris is convinced that MacDonald is innocent and has written a book about it, a revisionist history, A Wilderness of Error. Will this be THE THIN BLUE LINE 2.0?