Performance art piece sheds light on wrongful convictions

“The Innocents,” a performance art piece about wrongful prison convictions, is set to premiere Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center Concert Hall. The event is spearheaded by Sam Houston State University Director of Percussion Studies John Lane and guest artist Allen Otte. Admission is free.

According to The Washington Post, The United States has the highest prison population in the world, and there are also more jails and prisons than degree-granting colleges in the U.S. The United States justice system has one huge problem, though— wrongful convictions. “The Innocents” is a theatrical/musical production that displays the advocacy of wrongly convicted people.

“The Innocents is a concert-length performance art piece that is based on the issue of wrongful imprisonment and exoneration through DNA,” Lane said. “We first formed this piece in 2006 when I was a student studying at the University of Cincinnati with [Allen Otte] and he asked me to collaborate with him on it, and we been doing it ever since”.

Lane and Otte see “The Innocents” project as the driving force for justice for the innocent. Otte spoke about why he feels this piece will resonate with audiences.

“The whole history of art of any kind is to somehow create a deeper emotional resonance about the subject, not just the dry facts,” Otte said. “So as performers and composers, we wanted to find a bunch of different kinds of musical expressions which could sort of stick in people’s ears and make it a more memorable experience.”

What makes this show unique is the fact that Lane and Otte have taken the element of advocacy to a completely new level by using the platform that they have in theatre and music to advocate for those who have been falsely imprisoned.

“At the end of the day, what we’re interested in doing is shining a light on the subject and letting people know that it is still an issue,” Lane said. “It was an issue in 2006, and it’s even more of an issue today. At least from my perspective, that’s what I am hoping. Just to illuminate this issue that maybe [audiences] haven’t thought of it, they may not even know anything about it.”

The show premieres March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center Concert Hall. Early arrival is encouraged, and admission is free. Contact the School of Music for more information at (936) 294-1306.

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