Crossing Jamaica Avenue and HERE present

Broken Morning: Stories From the Death Row Factory

By Chiori Miyagawa

Directed by Sonoko Kawahara


Based on the February 20 through March 16, 2003 run at HERE


Music - Daniel Sonenberg

Lyrics - Mark Campbell

Costumes - Naama Greenfield

Lights - Garin Marschall

Sound - Andy Cohen

Stage Manager - Kristen Petliski

Press Representative - Timothy J. Haskell (Publicity Outfitters)



George Hannah - Brian Nishii - Kalpo Schwab

Margi Sharp - Sophia Skiles

Capital Crimes, the Death Penalty and the Entertainment Industry

There have been films about death row, like "Dead Man Walking," and there have been small screen portrayals infused with unmistakable moral and legal commentary about capital punishment everywhere from Court TV to the recently defunct HBO series, "Oz." THE EXONERATED, a staged dramatization about the wrongly convicted, has been playing in New York for months. Now, and for a few weeks, HERE Arts Center is presenting BROKEN MORNING: Scenes From the Death Row Factory, an impressive compilation of vignettes and personal stories.

Told through the recollections of perpetrators, victims’ families, death row guards and the prisoners’ families, collected when playwright Chiori Miyagawa traveled to Huntsville, Texas in 1996, the resulting BROKEN MORNING offers a fascinating, multi-faceted view of crime and punishment in the United States. Here, five actors portray the twenty-four characters. They each take on multiple roles, except for Kalpo Schwab as the writer/narrator, who describes the people we meet, and who also sets the scene through spoken cues.

The cast of BROKEN MORNING does a good job of identifying their disparate roles for the audience, ranging from the hopelessly scarred mother of a murdered son, to a young mother about to lose her life for her crimes, to the wife of one of the inmates. Most of the condemned characters are men, as one would expect, and they are as different as their crimes. The one thing they have in common is their fate, and if they are, as the guards call it, "work capable," a job in the sewing factory.

Originally presented in Dallas in 1997, BROKEN MORNING has been evolving over the years, and now includes a handful of songs that are sung by actors who wear the underlying emotions on their sleeves. I could have done without the music, but appreciate the effort to continue to polish a piece of work, even one not technically in progress.

In this strange new era of death as a form of artistic debate and expression, BROKEN MORNING: Scenes From the Death Row Factory is as respectable as any endeavor out there.

- Kessa De Santis -

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