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"Barred from Life:" Dance and performance event explores tragedy of wrongful conviction

Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2004

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – March 16, 2004– James Newsome was a victim of false identification and spent 15 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit; Delbert Tibbs spent time on death row before he was acquitted.

Barred from Life” is a performance work that uses real life experiences of individuals like Newsome and Tibbs to bring home the tragic consequences of wrongful conviction.

Created and performed by David J. Popalisky, assistant professor of dance at SCU, in collaboration with Kathleen (Cookie) Ridolfi, director of the Northern California Innocence Project, “Barred from Life” illuminates the human experience of individuals convicted for crimes they did not commit.       

“Barred From Life” performances are Wed., March 31, 2004 at 7 p.m. and Sun. April 4, 2004 at 8 p.m. in the Louis B. Mayer Theatre, at Santa Clara University.

“Barred from Life” addresses the complexity of wrongful conviction through a combination of media, including dance movement, video imagery, excerpts from interviews with exonerees, and an original score by True D. Rosaschi II.

To better understand the experiences of individuals who were wrongfully convicted, Popalisky interviewed people in Chicago and the Bay Area who had spent years in prison, some on death row, before being exonerated. “I needed to hear the exonerated men’s stories first hand,” said Popalisky. “Most of them had survived a special kind of hell.” 

“Barred from Life” occurs within a confined set, symbolic of a prison cell, that embodies the restricted physical experience of these men.  The score and video represent the mental states of the wrongfully accused throughout the various stages of their ordeal, and excerpts from the exoneree’s interviews connect audiences with the voices, faces, and eloquence of these men and their horrifying stories.

“David’s performance is an emotional commentary on an immensely important social issue - he melds poetry, media, and dance to portray the experiences of people forced into the nightmare of arrest and conviction for crimes they didn’t commit,” said Ridolfi. “I'm awed by his remarkable artistry. ‘Barred from Life’ is a powerful new story of the pain, despair and resilience of those who are wrongfully convicted.”

Delbert Tibbs, James Newsome, and local Bay Area exonerees will join Popalisky and Ridolfi in post-performance discussions. 

The talk will focus on the flaws in the justice system, interrogation and prosecution procedural reforms, the role of artistic expression in enhancing public awareness of wrongful convictions, and how awareness can move the issue forward.  Tibbs and Newsome will also speak with SCU students.

Popalisky earned a masters degree in fine arts in choreography from Mills College and an masters in theatre arts with an emphasis on dance from San Jose State University.

“Barred from Life” was made possible by the support of the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education, a Hackworth faculty grant from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, a SCU research grant, the SCU Center of Performing Arts, and the Northern California Innocence Project. 

Admission is free.  Donations to benefit the work of the Northern California Innocence Project are gladly accepted.  For more information, please contact the Center of Performing Arts box office at 408-554-4015.  On the Web at

About the Northern California Innocence Project
The Northern California Innocence Project, part of the National Innocence Network, is a clinical legal education and social justice program of the Santa Clara University School of Law, with a satellite office at Golden Gate University. The project provides free legal representation to prisoners seeking to prove their actual innocence The only non-profit project of its kind in Northern California, the SCU-based project has received more than 500 requests for assistance from inmates in its first year. New advances in DNA and forensic science have enabled inmates to demonstrate their actual innocence. Approximately 100 wrongfully convicted people have been freed from incarceration in the United States through the work of the Innocence Project Network within the past decade. The project is located at the SCU Law Clinic, 874 Lafayette Street, Santa Clara. For more information about the Innocence Project, see

About the Center  of Performing Arts
Center of Performing Arts at Santa Clara University, includes the University’s Department of Theatre and Dance and Department of Music. Graduates include Emmy award winners, Broadway directors and performers, designers, and administrators. SCU students have gone on to graduate programs at some of the country's leading schools such as the Curtis Institute, Eastman, Cleveland Institute, Indiana, USC, UCLA, and the American Conservatory Theatre. For more information on the CPA or scheduled performances, visit

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its 8,047students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees. Distinguished nationally by the fourth-highest graduation rate among all U.S. master’s universities, California's oldest higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice.  More information is online at





<p>David Popalisky, director of SCU's dance program, stars in 'Barred.'</p>

Tags: exoneration

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