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    Broken Morning

    Mourning in America

    "Broken Morning" takes the real stories of Texas Death Row prisoners and the people wounded by their crimes as the basis for a drama that increases our depth of understanding and sense of humanity about the death penalty's workings.


    "Broken Morning" is not calculated to instruct you on whether capital punishment is right or wrong, but maybe instead to give you a more personal sense of the people who commit or are affected by the most vicious crimes and their consequences.

    Company: Crossing Jamaica Avenue.
    Written by: Chiori Miyagawa.
    Directed by: Sonoko Kawahara.
    Cast: George Hannah, Brian Nishil, Kaipo Schwab, Margi Sharp, Sophia Skiles.
    Music by: Daniel Sonenberg, Mark Campbell.

    Related links: Official site
    145 Sixth Ave.
    Feb. 20 - March 16, 2003

    Written by Chiori Miyagawa based on interviews in and around Death Row in Texas, the play uses six actors to play two dozen characters — condemned prisoners, their relatives, the mothers of their victims, and two generations of jailers who refer to themselves as "a Death Row family," as if the deathhouse were to Huntsville, Texas, what General Motors is to Detroit.

    Some of the inmates are wrapped in denial or anger, and many simply exist from day to day as long as they're allowed to. Some are genuinely vicious people, or were at the time of their crimes. But one stands out as the most interesting story. A woman, abused as a child and already a mother in her teens, is near the end of her time but has found a certain peace.

    Her son, now 16, talks about how he struggles with his social identity at school, standing out as the kid whose mom is in jail; yet, the mother is pleased that her lawyers took the boy in and raised him since his early years, and in this perverse way she feels she's given him a life she lacked the means and the stability for when she was a confused single mom. Execution brings her a sense of excitement because it will finally give her a chance for a "contact" visit with her son — that is, she'll be able to hug him for the first time in years. She's grown into adult maturity in her dozen-plus years behind bars, and she doesn't feel nearly as bad as we do for her. But she also misses the milestones in her son's life as well as the signs of psychological toll that he feels — a burden that will soon grow heavier when the teenager is forced to take responsibility for her body after her execution.

    "Broken Morning" doesn't have any one argument to make about its subject. It's more about incremental discoveries.  

    Another woman (also played by Sophia Skiles) tells how the loss of her small son destroyed her spirit. She thought about killing herself but has been kept alive by the hope of seeing the child's murderer die. Meanwhile, she's become shrewish and hostile toward everyone she sees — almost like a crazy person who goes down the street scowling and cursing people — and she's a repellent character, honestly. But her story is still a terribly human one and it's instructive to hear it.

    Unlike "The Exonerated," the star-studded production about Death Row prisoners who have been inconveniently found innocent before they could be killed, "Broken Morning" doesn't have any one argument to make about its subject. It's more about incremental discoveries, picking up subtle clues about the humanity of the people we as a society have consigned to death and the people in whose name we've done it.

    MARCH 6, 2003

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