We couldn’t be more happy for our former colleague, Carol Marin, on the positive reviews for the off-off-Broadway production of “Natural Life,” written by Eduardo Ivan Lopez and inspired by a series of interviews in 1995 between Marin and former Death Row inmate Guinevere Garcia, whose sentence was commuted to “natural life without parole” by Gov. Jim Edgar in 1996. The play recently opened at the T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre.
“John Wayne Gacy had just been executed about a year or so before. It was [Marin’s longtime NBC producer] Don Moseley’s idea that we had not talked to women on Death Row, because the focus with Gacy had always been men on Death Row,” Marin said in an interview earlier today. “So I wrote to every woman on Death Row, and there were four or five at the time, and they all turned me down. The following year, GuinGarcia’s lawyer, Andrea Lyon, who was at the DePaul Justice Center, called and said there’s someone who wants to talk to you. She’s gonna drop all of her appeals. She’s tired of begging for her life. And she’s going to proceed directly to execution.”
Guin Garcia, now 57, has been in prison almost all of her life. She served time following conviction for the murder of her 11-month old daughter Sarah in 1977. In 1991, just four months after her parole in that case, Guin murdered her abusive husband, resulting in a death penalty sentence in 1992.
“She’d been in prison after killing her baby Sarah, to spare her the possibility of the kind of sexual abuse she herself had experienced as a young child,” Marin said. “Then she went back in for killing her husband George [Garcia] after suffering abuse at his hands. Guin’s childhood was horrific. Her husband’s abuse was horrific.
“… But I told her I would not be her advocate. I told her I would not make an argument for or against her appeal process,” Marin continued. “She had made the decision to drop all her appeals. Not because she wanted to die, but because she had grown absolutely weary of begging for her life. So she was going to take matters into her own hands. They were going to execute her, but now she wanted it on HER timeline, not [the state’s] … And I told her, if you lie to me, it’s gonna wreck everything. I’m going to report all of the bad as well as all of the good. And she never lied to me.”
The harsh realities of Guin’s life are depicted in “Natural Life,” according to Marin, who attended the opening a few weeks back, though some artistic license was undertaken by the playwright, who Marin said corresponded with Guin over the years as part of his research into the story.
“Well, the actress who plays me is much younger and prettier by years,” Marin said with a chuckle. “But my greatest concern was that Guin would be misrepresented. And thankfully, she is not. Her story is not misrepresented. But [the playwright] did take some literary liberties. Ed [Lopez] has me and Jim [Edgar] as former flames at Harvard, and them I come back as the reporter and he’s the governor. I called Gov. Edgar and said, ‘I just want you to know!’ ”
“And [in 1995] Bianca Jagger flew in from New York and joined with a lot of amnesty and anti-death penalty people, and said to me, ‘You must use your influence with Guin to change her mind about her appeals.’ And I told her I won’t because that’s disrespectful to Guin. Guin got to make so few decisions about her own life, that this was one she could control. The play, however, conflates me with Jagger. So in the play’s beginning I’m the reporter who tells GuinI won’t be her advocate and toward the end I want to help save her. … But that’s OK. I think Ed’s been very faithful to her truth. If he takes literary liberties with other characters that’s OK.”
“I’m glad Ed never talked to me about it,” Marincontinued. “What I had reported was documented and out there. He went through all the transcripts. I was not going to share with him anything that had not gone unpublished. So he had all of my side of it already from the publicized stories and columns.”
Marin hopes the play gets extended in New York (the cast was not told of Marin’s presence on opening night).
“The [New York] cast is terrific. The woman who plays me [Anna Holbrook as Rita. the TV reporter based on Marin] and the woman who plays Guin [Holly Heiser, though in the play the character is named Claire] worked very hard at trying to be realistic. Together they well represent Guin’s truth. Seeing myself on stage is the strangest experience!”