“Broad discourse is especially important on the issue of the death penalty because executions take place as almost secret rituals behind prison walls with only a few witnesses, so most people are never going to get close to state killings — unless the arts take them there.”
~ Sister Helen Prejean
An invitation into a hidden realm
In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean became the spiritual advisor to Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, who was sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. In the months before Sonnier’s death, the Roman Catholic nun 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 of Sonnier’s terrible crime and the men whose job it was to execute him — men who often harbored doubts about the rightness of what they were doing.
When it was first published in 1993, Sr Helen’s book, Dead Man Walking, sparked a national debate that brought into focus the dreadful details of how human choices and consequences are interwoven in our system of capital punishment. The book inspired an Academy Award winning movie starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, an opera, a CD of music inspired by the film and a play by Tim Robbins.
The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project is an invitation to you to engage with one of the key civil rights issues of our day, to look beyond the veil that hides our system of capital punishment, and to discover the power of the arts to illuminate the deep moral issues of our time.
- Check out the FAQ for students.
- Read what those who have participated in the Play Project have to say about the experience.