Blank, Jessica 1975-

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Blank, Jessica 1975-

PERSONAL:

Born 1975; married Erik Jensen.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Atria Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

CAREER:

Actress and writer. Actress in theatre productions, television programs, including Guiding Light, One Life to Live, Rescue Me, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and films, including Undermind, The Exonerated, The Namesake, and On the Road with Judas.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Named One of Ten Best Plays, Time and New York Times, both 2002, Lucille Lortel Award, 2003, Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play, and Drama Desk Award, all for The Exonerated.

WRITINGS:


WITH HUSBAND, ERIK JENSEN


The Exonerated: A Play, Faber & Faber (New York, NY), 2004.

Living Justice: Love, Freedom, and the Making of the Exonerated, Atria (New York, NY), 2005.

Also coauthor of play Liberty City.

ADAPTATIONS:

The Exonerated was adapted into a movie for CourtTV, 2005.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

Cowriting and directing a solo play; cowriting screenplay about rock ‘n’ roll; another movie for CourtTV; a novel.

SIDELIGHTS:

In 2000 Jessica Blank and her then-boyfriend Erik Jensen—the two are now married—attended a Columbia University seminar on the death penalty. They learned of a group if Illinois prisoners who were convicted after torture by an unethical police officer. This triggered their interest in the topic and ultimately inspired them to research and write a play together. Blank and Jensen interviewed people across the United States, studied laws and the court system, and compiled the stories of six former death row prisoners who spent a combined total of over a century awaiting execution; all have since been cleared of the charges against them. The result of their efforts was The Exonerated: A Play. The Exonerated tells the tales of wrongful accusations, years wasted in prison on these false charges, the prejudices and the poor work of the legal system in defending these people. The play was originally staged with a mostly static company of players aside from three roles played by a rotating cast of well-known actors including at various times Richard Dreyfus, Mia Farrow and Debra Winger.

The Exonerated received critical and audience acclaim. Reviewing the play for the Lancet, Udani Samarasekera found that while there are the "dark and worrying moments" that one would expect in a drama about inmates on death row, the play also contains "hope and even humour." Variety critic Charles Isherwood agreed with Samarasekera, noting the "surprising amount of humor" and summing up the play as "artful and moving." Julio Martinez, also writing in Variety, felt that the message put forth by The Exonerated is "too one-sided" but still "worthy." The stories told in The Exonerated are "both compelling and deeply moving," according to Hollywood Reporter contributor Frank Scheck, who acknowledged the play as "hard-hitting, powerful and socially relevant."

In 2005 Blank and Jensen collaborated again, this time on a memoir of the growth of their play and of their romance. Living Justice: Love, Freedom, and the Making of the Exonerated begins with early biographical information about its authors and goes on to tell the story of their development of The Exonerated, from the inception of the idea to its fruition in a successful stage production. The book chronicles the playwrights' journey across the country and their interviews with numerous innocent victims of the criminal justice system and its vagaries. In a Library Journal review of Living Justice, Laura A. Ewald observed that while the story is "compelling," Blank and Jensen weaken the book's message with enough jabs at President Bush to make it seem a "leftist political campaign." Booklist critic Vernon Ford was more positive about the work, noting the mix of genres and praising the memoir as "extraordinary." A Publishers Weekly contributor found the book "passionate," praising it as a "fascinating, revealing memoir."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


BOOKS


Blank, Jessica and Erik Jensen, Living Justice: Love, Freedom, and the Making of the Exonerated, Atria (New York, NY), 2005.

PERIODICALS


Booklist, February 15, 2005, Vernon Ford, review of Living Justice, p. 1050.

Hollywood Reporter, April 23, 2002, Ed Kaufman, review of The Exonerated: A Play, p. 22; October 15, 2002, Frank Scheck, review of The Exonerated, p. 22.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Living Justice, p. 93.

Lancet, March 18, 2006, Udani Samarasekera, "Surviving Death Row," review of The Exonerated, p. 894.

Legal Times, May 2, 2005, Steve Weinberg, review of Living Justice.

Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Laura A. Ewald, review of Living Justice, p. 96.

Minnesota Lawyer, April 12, 2004, Barbara L. Jones, "Showing the ‘Human Side’ of Death Penalty Cases," review of The Exonerated.

Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2005, review of Living Justice, p. 67.

Variety, April 24, 2002, Julio Martinez, review of The Exonerated, p. 12; October 21, 2002, Charles Isherwood, review of The Exonerated, p. 43.

ONLINE


Gothamist,http://www.gothamist.com/ (April 11, 2005), interview with Blank and Erik Jensen.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (June 23, 2006), brief profile of Blank.