Dead Man Walking (play)
Dead Man Walking is a 2002 play written by Tim Robbins based on Dead Man Walking, a book by Sister Helen Prejean about her experiences as a chaplain on death row. Sister Prejean's book has also been made into a film starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.
Rather than having it produced professionally, in 2004 he offered the play to schools and colleges throughout the United States, particularly Jesuit schools. The project, titled "The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project" , is managed by the "Ministry Against the Death Penalty" where Sister Prejean now bases her work. The University of Scranton was one of the original Jesuit Universities to perform the play in their 2004-2005 season.
History of the Play
Sister Helen Prejean, who had become an internationally known human rights activist as a result of writing Dead Man Walking, first conceived the idea of a stage version of her work in 1998 after reading a New Yorker magazine article that said Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, had been performed a million times, and was performed every day somewhere in the world. Sister Helen realized that if Dead Man Walking could be made into a play its impact would be expanded.
Sister Helen had previously worked with Tim Robbins on the film version of this story, and invited him to write a stage play of her story. Robbins accepted the invitation to crafting a stage adaptation.
Robbins chose to not take the play to Broadway but instead to "use the play as a tool to create deeper reflections on the death penalty in our nation's high schools and colleges." The performance requirements are that any school mounting a production must also involve at least two academic departments to offer courses pertaining to the death penalty.
According to the Catholic Mobilizing Network and the play's website:
Since the launch of the project in the fall of 2003, more than 250 high schools and colleges across the country have produced the play, conducted academic courses on the death penalty, and brought the issue to life on their campuses through art, music, and public education and action events.
More than 250 educational institutions — high schools, colleges, and universities — have produced the play in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, and also in Canada, England and Africa.
The play was performed by the King's College Theatre Department under the direction of M. Sheileen Godwin in February 2008 as part of Tim Robbins experiment. The show's cast was mainly made up of students and faculty members as well as members of the community. Sister Helen Prejean came to King's College just days before the show opened and spoke with the entire campus community about her experiences. She also addressed those who were to be performing in the play during her presentation and attended a dress rehearsal.
Required Tie-in of Play Performance to Activism
According to the official website of the play,
For the rights to produce the play, Tim requires that at least two academic departments in the school incorporate the issue of the death penalty into their curriculum for at least a semester within that year. Tim's sense of partnership is also reflected in his request that the students and faculty give him feedback on the play so he can improve upon the telling of this powerful story.