Send your school testimonial to National Coordinator Rachael Hudak
The audience was very moved. Several men reported that the show made them cry.
Dead Man Walking puts the act of retribution in our view. It forces us to confront it, to question it, to personalize it. That's the point.
The combination of reading the book, experiencing the play and engaging in interdisciplinary discussions was a very powerful experience for our students, faculty and staff - and for the larger community.
At the first reading, we made it clear that this was not a play but a project, one designed to enlarge the scope of discourse on the death penalty, that it would call for incredible commitment, openness, and willingness to learn and explore the issue together as a company.
I don’t know why every Catholic high school in the country isn’t working on the show. Producing Dead Man Walking had an incredible impact, not only on the theatre department, but within the entire school community. Our English Department had every Junior and Senior in the school read “A Lesson Before Dying” and do projects on different areas of capital punishment. Our Religious Studies department was inspired to expand their capital punishment and social justice segment. Our Campus Ministry students presented an entire Mass around the subject. Our Visual & Performing Arts Department was able to use the movie AND the play to discuss the ways that theatre and film are similar/different as well as to provoke discussion around the subject. And our Student Leadership filmed a documentary around the experience which they are going to show at a school wide forum next month. Obviously, having it multi-discipline requirement in the performance agreement began this discussion… but it took on a life of its own and was unlike anything I have ever experienced. If there are theatre directors at Catholic high school who aren’t seriously considering presenting this show… they are missing an opportunity to really impact their entire community on this very relevant social issue. And, if you ask me, that’s what theatre is all about!
We recognized that the play is intense and may be controversial. We are presenting it not as propaganda but to provoke thoughtful dialogue. The audience will make up its own mind as to the issues presented. The actors and production team members came to this project with a range of views on the death penalty. The experience of mounting this production has at least promoted us to think. The success of the production staggered me.
I began my work on the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project as a person with a keen interest in exploring the ability of theatre to impact a community. It became for me the most gratifying and profound experience in my professional life. Partnering with volunteers from all segments of my community, I was able to realize to a large degree my goal of conceiving a production that redefined the role of theatre within our community. For my students, it afforded them an opportunity to practice theatre in its best and most noble form. And in a project designed to generate discourse, our greatest achievement was to engage the hearts and minds of a significant portion of our community in a dialogue about the death penalty.
One of the beauties of a well written contemporary script is that even students with no acting background can "relate" to the story and the emotions. This play is so very accessible, while still being a great vehicle to create teaching moments about so many things: the place of drama in education; the death penalty; acting and theatre skills; to name but a few.
It is wonderful to have a cast rejoice in creating silence, both within the play and even at the end of it for an audience. It is also wonderful to have such a powerful vehicle for showing "others" (both inside and outside the establishment) that surprising people can achieve greatness when trusted with an issue with which they can engage. This play is a gift on so many levels.