Playwright Tim Robbins
Born October 16, 1958 in West Covina, California and raised in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Tim Robbins has a long list of notable credits as an actor, director, writer and producer of films and theater.
Key acting roles are in such films as Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, Isabel Croixet’s The Secret Life of Words, Philip Noyce’s Catch a Fire, Robert Altman’s The Player and Short Cuts, Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, The Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy, Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, Mark Pellington’s Arlington Road, Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46, Michel Gondry’s Human Nature, Tony Bill’s Five Corners, Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder and Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham.
Robbins has won numerous awards for his acting including an Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor for Mystic River, Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globe for Best Actor for The Player. He was nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Actor for Bob Roberts and by the Screen Actors Guild for Best Actor for The Shawshank Redemption.
As a director, Robbins distinguished himself with Cradle Will Rock, which he also wrote and produced, winning Best Film and Best Director at the Sitges Film Festival in Barcelona and the National Board of Review Award for Special Achievement in Filmmaking in the United States.
Dead Man Walking, which he also wrote and produced, won multiple awards including the Academy Award for Best Actress for Susan Sarandon, the Christopher Award, the Humanitas Award and four awards at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as an 4 Oscar nominations including Best Director and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay.
His first film, Bob Roberts, won the Bronze Award at the Tokyo International Festival and Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor at the Boston Film Festival.
Robbins also serves as Artistic Director for The Actors’ Gang, a theater company formed in 1982 that has over 80 productions and more than 100 awards to their credit. As a playwright he has been produced in London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. His latest play, Embedded, played to sold out audiences for over four months at the Public Theater in New York before playing the Riverside Studios in London and embarking on a National Tour in the U.S.
Most recently he directed The Actors’ Gang in their shockingly relevant and wildly successful adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 which for the past two years has toured to over 40 states and to four continents.
From 2006 until the present, Le Petit Theatre de Pain’s production of Embeddedhas been touring France, most recently playing at the Theatre du Soleil in Paris. In the US, Embedded was revived recently in productions in Chicago and Tampa Bay.
In addition, Robbins stage adaptation of Dead Man Walking has been performed in over 170 universities nationwide. Rights to perform the play are exclusive to educational institutions until 2014. In order to obtain the rights for the play, universities must commit two departments other than theater arts to offer courses on the death penalty. Throughout the country and the world for the past four years, symposiums, lectures and debates have been held in conjunction with the theatrical productions leading to a substantial increase in the dialogue and education surrounding this important issue.
Robbins is also very proud to sponsor educational programs with The Actors’ Gang that provide arts education to Elementary, Middle and High School students in the L.A. area. The Gang has also worked for the past three years providing theatrical workshops to incarcerated inmates in the L.A. prison system.
Robbins lives in New York City with his partner, Susan Sarandon, and is the proud father of 3 mischievous young adults.
Author Sister Helen Prejean
In 1982, Sister Helen started corresponding with Patrick Sonnier, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison for the murder of two teenagers. Sonnier asked her to become his spiritual advisor and she accepted. Before Sonnier’s death, Sister Helen came to know a man who was as terrified as he had once been terrifying. At the same time, she came to know the families of the victims and the men whose job it was to execute him — men who often harbored doubts about the rightness of what they were doing.
In 1984, Elmo Patrick Sonnier was put to death in the electric chair. Sister Helen was there to witness his execution.
In the following months, she became spiritual advisor to another death row inmate, Robert Lee Willie, who soon met the same fate as Sonnier. After witnessing this second execution, Sister Helen realized that this lethal act, performed by the state on our behalf, would remain hidden unless she spoke up about it. She came together with others to hold execution vigils and to march to draw attention to the issue. She founded a support group for victims’ family members called Survive. And she sat down and wrote a book about her experience.
When it was first published in 1993, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States sparked a national debate that focused on the dreadful details of how human choices and consequences are woven into our system of capital punishment. The book inspired an Academy Award winning movie starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, an opera, a compilation of music inspired by the film featuring songwriters and performers such as Bruce Springstein, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Johnny Cash and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and a play by Tim Robbins. That play is the work at the heart of The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project.
Twenty years later and with capital punishment still practiced in 32 states, Sister Helen divides her time between campaigning against the death penalty, counseling individual death row prisoners, and working with murder victims’ family members. She has accompanied four more men to their deaths and has written about two of them in her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions. She is currently spiritual advisor to Manuel Ortiz, a man she believes is innocent of the crime that has put him on death row at Angola for over 20 years. You can read about Manuel’s case at Manuel Ortiz is Innocent.
Sister Helen has received honorary degrees from universities all over the world and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. She is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the non-profit organization that carries out her mission, the Ministry Against the Death Penalty, is based in New Orleans. You can follow Sister Helen on Facebook.
(Photo credit: Scott Langley)
Ministry Against the Death Penalty
Our mission is founded on a set of core values and beliefs:
- We are compelled by the compassion of Jesus and his strong expression of mercy and justice to stand side by side with those who are outcasts in our society.
- We believe in the dignity and rights of all persons and recognize that government-sanctioned killing and the practice of torture is a violation of those rights and a denial of human dignity.
- We believe capital punishment is never an appropriate solution for any crime.
- We believe the death penalty causes harm to all those affected by it, including victims’ families and prison officers as well as the condemned and their families.
- We are committed to promoting compassionate alternatives to the death penalty, including restorative justice and funding for victims’ services.
- We believe that the criminal justice system in the United States disproportionately affects poor people and people of color. We believe that prison reform and the abolition of capital punishment will support necessary systemic change.
- We believe that respectful discourse and critical reflection encourage individuals to become more active, engaged citizens.