Graduate students present ‘The Exonerated’

The Graduate Student Government Association does a lot for its graduate students and in turn the students work hard every year to give back to their community. However, over the past few years, they have been trying to find ways to strengthen their presence in the Ambrose community.
With upcoming GSGA play, “The Exonerated,” director Emily Clifton hopes to kill two birds with one stone.
“We want to be more in contact with clubs and get involved on campus,” Clifton said, “to give grad students a voice with other students.”
“The Exonerated” is going to be held on April 11 in the Rogalski Center Ballroom. The play compliments the upcoming visit from Wilbert Rideau on April 5.  Rideau is an exonerated journalist whose trial has been studied in communications classes here on campus for years. Rideau was arrested in the 1960s for armed robbery and murder, however he was exonerated after 44 years behind bars for violation of due process and civil rights.
GSGA has been preparing for the upcoming event since August. Now, with the long-awaited event quickly approaching, last-minute changes and challenges are popping up.
“I just finished casting the last person with the play less than a month away,” Clifton admitted.
The bonus of a staged reading play is that the actors don’t have to memorize their lines, cutting down some of the prep work. They are able to use their scripts the entire time, and judging by the complexity of the material, it’s a good thing.
“The readings are word for word what happened to the people imprisoned,” Clifton said. “It would be difficult to memorize.”
According to Clifton, the actors in the play are not all professionals. The amount of acting experience varies from performer to performer.  However, all the actors were chosen for specific reasons.
“We have carefully chosen performers who have a connection with either being exonerated or know someone who has been, or work in related fields,” Clifton said. “I think it gives the play more meaning.”
Performers include undergraduate Jennifer Arnold, alum Nic Anderson, women’s studies professor, Katy Strzepek and others from both the Ambrose community and around the Quad Cities.
Although GSGA is looking to increase their presence on campus with annual fundraising events, their intentions are not entirely self-serving. Every year they choose a charity or foundation that is special to one or more of the graduate students and raise money for that organization.
“The Exonerated” is free to attend, but GSGA encourages attendees to bring donations.  Their goal is to raise money for the Safer Foundation.
The Safer Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides services aimed at eliminating barriers to employment and education for individuals who have been incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system.
The organization also provides Youth Empowerment Programs in both Davenport and Rock Island.  These programs give young people the opportunity to obtain their GED, secure employment, and learn and practice valuable life skills.  They work with kids who have had trouble in the traditional school setting and gives them the opportunity to experience success in the classroom.
After the performance, there will be a discussion on the social, political and economic costs of incarceration on the United States.  Answers to any questions attendees may have will be available, as well as free coffee and cookies.  The event begins at 6 p.m.


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