Naropa University Students Explore Death Penalty as Part of the National Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project

BOULDER, Colo. (March 17, 2010) -- The spring 2010 semester for Naropa University's BFA in Performance and Peace Studies departments will culminate with a production of "Dead Man Walking," written by actor, director Tim Robbins. The public performance will be held on Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1 at 8 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center, on Naropa University's Arapahoe Campus, 2130 Arapahoe Ave. The event is $10 general admission, half of the proceeds will be donated to Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, New Orleans. Admission is free for students, seniors, Naropa staff, faculty, alumni w/ID. For box office information, call 303-245-4798 or send an e-mail to boxoffice@naropa.edu.

Naropa University is presenting "Dead Man Walking" at the invitation of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project and Sister Helen Prejean. The project was borne after Sister Helen read a New Yorker magazine article that said Arthur Miller's play, "Death of a Salesman," had been performed a million times. According to the article, Miller's play was performed somewhere in the world every day.. She asked her friend, Tim Robbins, if he would be willing to write a theatrical version of his award-winning movie of the same name. The project debuted in the fall of 2003. During the eight years since its debut, "Dead Man Walking" has been performed in more than 170 high schools and colleges across the country. Schools have 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. For more information, visit www.naropa.edu/academic/undergraduate/performance/calendar.cfm.

The goal of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project is "to integrate the power of theatre arts and academic study into the national discourse on the death penalty to replace ignorance, apathy, and cynicism among young people regarding the death penalty with information, introspection, and inspiration."

To prepare for the performance, Naropa University will host a town hall about the Dead Man Walking Theatre Project on March 31st at noon in the Performing Arts Center. Free and open to the public. The event will feature a discussion of the death penalty that will be led by Colorado University Sociology Professor Michael Radelet and Howard Morton of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons.

The performance will be directed by BFA in Performance Director Joan Bruemmer and will feature students from the BFA in Performance Program and actors from the Naropa undergraduate community. "The BFA in Performance is proud to participate in this event that speaks directly to Naropa University's mission to 'embrace the richness of human diversity with the aim of fostering a more just and equitable society and an expanded awareness of our common humanity,'" said Bruemmer. Following the performance, there will be a talk-back led by Stephen Crimaldi.

This exciting collaboration with the Peace Studies Department has been in the works for more than a year. "It is important for the theatre students to connect the transformative power of the arts with issues that affect the national and global community, working with the Peace Studies students offers them the opportunity to make that connection" says Bruemmer.

"Reading Sister Helen's book The Death of Innocents has been deeply moving for students in the Peace Studies department, encouraging them to think more deeply about the issues at the core of the death penalty--race, poverty, and the tendency to use violence as a response to complex social problems," said Candace Walworth, Peace Studies chair.

Martine McDonald, a peace studies alumna, is helping coordinate the community outreach activities surrounding this project. One of the most powerful events so far was the visit the class made to the Boulder County Jail.

Rose Mohan, a BFA student, said of her visit, "I was going in with the idea of demonizing the people who worked there. However, when I met the commander who led the tour I felt how much he cared and he still believed in the death penalty and it made me question my own beliefs." Another student, Lillian Myers, said the visit brought up the question, "How can we as theatre students use our training to empower marginalized youth in our community to find creative outlets for self-expression as an alternative to substance abuse and drug-related activities?" She said that this question was prompted after learning that the majority of people incarcerated were living below the poverty line with no hope of posting bail or were suffering from substance abuse or drug activities.

Naropa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Naropa University is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian liberal arts institution dedicated to advancing contemplative education. This approach to learning integrates the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions, helping students know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others. The university comprises a four-year undergraduate college and graduate programs in the arts, education, environmental leadership, psychology and religious studies.

©