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Six Stories Told About Death Row Survivors in Theatre Oxford’s Production of ‘The Exonerated’

From left, Stage manager Brenna Paola, director Felipe E. Macias, and actors Jes Worth, David James Hamilton, Jennifer Mizenko, and Antonio Manning during a rehearsal of ‘The Exonerated.’

Sixty-year-old Delbert Tibbs is an old soul from Chicago, a seminary dropout, military veteran, radical, poet, and death row survivor.

He’s also a Black man who happened to be on a highway near a small Florida town soon after a man was killed and a young woman raped.

Both were white. Enough reason for the cops to arrest him.

“This is not the place for thought that does not end in concreteness,” narrator Delbert Tibbs tells us in ‘The Exonerated.’ “It is dangerous to dwell too much on things. To wonder who or why or when, to wonder how, is dangerous. How do we, the people, get outta this hole, what’s the way to fight?”

Delbert Tibbs’ story is one of a half-dozen told in Theatre Oxford’s production of “The Exonerated” at the Powerhouse Arts Center on Friday, Sept. 8, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 9, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

A panel discussion by Tucker Carrington, the founding director of the Mississippi Innocence Project, and Cliff Johnson, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center, will follow both evening productions.

The production is made possible by the support of Frye | Reeves Attorneys at Law, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

Director Felipe E. Macias during a rehearsal of The Exonerated.

Authored by Jessica Blank and Erik Jenson, “The Exonerated” shares the true stories of wrongfully convicted survivors of death row. Directing the Theatre Oxford production is theater veteran Felipe Esteban Macias.

The stories tell of resilience and faith and post-traumatic stress. They range from racially motivated arrests and convictions to a hippie falsely accused of murdering his parents to a mother who innocently catches a ride with a driver who will kill two police officers before the ride is over.

“We have six wonderful stories wrapped up in one play,” Macias says about The Exonerated.

Taken from interviews, letters, transcripts, case files, and public records, the stories offer sobering insights into the nation’s criminal justice system and capital punishment.

“The Exonerated” won the 2003 Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Awards and also received the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Champion of Justice Award.

Tickets will be available at the door and seats can be reserved at https://oxfordarts.com/theatreoxford.

To learn more about Theatre Oxford, visit their website (theatreoxford.org) or follow them on social media @theatreoxford.


Legal Panel to Follow Each Show

Theatre Oxford will host a discussion with University of Mississippi Law School legal experts after the upcoming production of The Exonerated at the Powerhouse in Oxford.

The discussion will take place after each evening’s performance. 

Following the performances on Friday and Saturday night, Theatre Oxford will host a casual discussion with legal experts, who will answer questions from the audience and provide a more complete context for the justice themes raised in the show.

Tucker Carrington, the founding director of the Mississippi Innocence Project, and Cliff Johnson, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center, will both be speaking.

Carrington and Johnson will discuss some of the legal themes in the play, including wrongful convictions, poor representation, faulty evidence, discrimination, misconduct, and lack of transition support upon reintegration. 

The George C. Cochran Innocence Project strives to provide quality legal representation to Mississippi state prisoners serving significant periods of incarceration who have cognizable claims of wrongful conviction. The MacArthur Justice Center advocates for human rights and social justice through litigation, focusing on issues such as police misconduct, unlawful bail and fine collection practices that result in incarceration or confinement of poor Mississippians, and juvenile justice.  

“The Exonerated demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit in the face of
extreme, psychological challenges,” says Kate Hooper, president of the board of Theatre
Oxford. “It explores the struggle to find and maintain faith. The words spoken are so powerful, it’s hard to believe they are ripped from transcripts, letters, and public records. The artistry of this piece is in weaving the stories, not creating them.” 

To purchase tickets, visit oxfordarts.com/theatreoxford.

Courtesy of Theater Oxford

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