Performing Arts presents: "Dead Man Walking"
By Anne Brady
The play "Dead Man Walking" recounts the story of Sister Helen Prejean, a courageous nun, who meets and counsels Matthew Poncelet, a death row inmate. Poncelet was convicted of taking part in the gruesome killing of a young couple with a bright future, Hope Percy and Walter Delacroix.
The play was adapted from the book, written by Sister Prejean; this literary masterpiece was based on her personal experiences. The play combined the attributes of two men–both death row inmates whom she counseled prior to their executions–into the character of Matthew Poncelet. Dead Man Walking portrays the controversial subject of death row with literary excellence, and the world is taking notice.
Throughout the play, we see Prejean's internal struggle with the ideals of government execution and whether or not she can support Poncelet without scorning the Delacroix's and the Percy's, two families torn apart by his violent act.
There are many pieces to this jagged puzzle; can sister Helen manage them all? By agreeing to administer spiritual counseling to Matt, she undertakes a larger task than she bargained for. Between attempting to save Matt's life, and preparing for his death, Prejean must also try to make Matt take responsibility for his actions.
Here at the Arts Academy, on request of the Sister Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence, we have the honor of performing Dead Man Walking. When asked to embark on this journey, Ms. Kelly Beuth, director, said her initial reaction was, "...excitement to bring this experience to the students, and bring the message of peace, and remembrance of sister Karen, who was my (fifth grade) teacher."
The cast is hoping to put a fresh perspective on the play, and to accomplish this, the Karen Klimczack Center held a nonviolence retreat. For three days, with the guidance of some extremely talented administrators (provided by the center), the cast discussed all aspects of violence. They also performed a series of trust exercises that allowed them to form a unique bond.
"I definitely think we bonded," says Stephanie Daile (portraying Lucille, Poncelet's mother), "because we're like a family now."
This bond is very important, as there are many challenges in performing such a high caliber piece. "To me," says Stephanie, "the biggest overall challenge would be, since we're so young and naive at our age, having to actually convey the struggle these people went through and to get the audience to realize the message of peace and tolerance."
Indeed, this play, to be presented during performing arts' "tolerance week", sends quite a message. "A message of peace,” says Ms. Beuth, “of hope for the future, of acceptance, and of understanding of all people."
Come see this phenomenal piece for yourself. The Arts Academy encourages you to attend one of our three performances in the theater of the school. Tickets are $6 for the Friday and Saturday evening shows, which begin at 7:00 p.m., and $10 for the Sunday matinee (beginning at 2:00), after which we are honored to be able to present the phenomenal Sister Helen Prejean. This is guaranteed to be an unforgettable, can't-miss, amazing, inspirational event.
To learn more about Sister Helen Prejean and her work involving the death penalty, log onto www.prejean.org.
Anne Brady is a visually-impaired student, who is in the cast of Dead Man Walking. She has aspirations of becoming a journalist in the future.