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Sarah Jones Performs 'Waking the American Dream,' About New Immigrants' Experience in America; She Also Discusses 'the Exonerated,' a Play About Innocent Death Row Prisoners

StoryJanuary 15, 2003
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Illinois Gov. George Ryan had been a supporter of the death penalty until it emerged that thirteen death row prisoners in his state were actually innocent.

Well right now we’re going to talk about the experiences of wrongfully convicted people. We’re going to hear about a popular off-Broadway play called 'The Exonerated.' A website for 'The Exonerated' reads:

“Imagine everything you did between the years of 1976 and 1992.

“Now remove all of it.

“Those 16 years were taken away from Sunny Jacobs, convicted and sentenced to death for a crime she did not commit.

“But her story is not unique.

"And it could happen just as easily to you."

'The Exonerated' tells the true stories of six innocent survivors of death row.

Writers and directors Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen attended a conference on the death penalty at Columbia University, and decided to take action. They conducted months of research, interviewing 40 former death row prisoners who were eventually cleared, and their families. Based on the interviews, they wrote a play that tells the stories of six former death row inmates.

The play has a rotating cast and has included Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Robbins, Sarah Jones and others.

Well today we’re joined in our firehouse studio by actor, playwright and poet Sarah Jones. She is currently performing in 'The Exonerated' in New York City.

After winning the 1997 Grand Slam Championship at the famed Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Jones’ career took off. Her solo show "Surface Transit" was the centerpiece of the first New York Hip Hop Theatre Festival and later won the Best One Person Show award at HBO’s Aspen Comedy Arts Festival. Spike Lee cast her in his film, 'Bamboozled.' She starred in the celebrated "Vagina Monologues" off-Broadway and in Los Angeles and was featured in PBS’ award-winning "City Life" series. She also Jones recently wrote and performed her second solo show, "Women Can’t Wait," at the United Nations for the International Conference on Women’s Rights.

Finally, she has just written a play called 'Waking the American Dream.' In the monologue, she portrays twelve immigrants who describe their experiences in America through poetry and story-telling. As the crackdown on immigrants continues, with mass registration, arrests, and deportation, she will be performing parts of it for us here today.


  • Sarah Jones, playwright, poet and actor.

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