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Press Releases 2008

CONTACT:  Jana Marcus, Marketing & Communications
(831) 479-5744
jamarcus [at] cabrillo.edu

January 22, 2008

THEATRICAL PRODUCTION OF “DEAD MAN WALKING” BRINGS TOGETHER
SCHOOL CLASSES, LECTURES AND PERFORMING ARTS ON SOCIAL JUSTICE
Cabrillo College Theatre Arts, Delta Charter High School and Pisces Moon Productions Present Important Discourse
and Dialogue Through  The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project

Aptos, CA--In a most ambitious project,Cabrillo College Theatre Arts department in collaboration Pisces Moon Productions, Delta Charter High School and The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project have pulled together to present the theatrical production Dead Man Walking at Cabrillo College Theater from February 8 through February 24, as well as community discussions with Sister Maureen Fenlon on the issues of capital punishment and social justice.

Tim Robbins, who directed the critically acclaimed film and wrote its screenplay, also penned a play, which is a faithful adaptation of Sister Helen Prejean’s non-fiction account of the same name. The plot revolves around Matthew Poncelet, who has been sentenced to death for rape and murder.  He reaches out to Sister Prejean, who finds herself venturing into unknown and frightening territory. Dead Man Walking chronicles both her emotional and turbulent journey and that of the prisoner she befriends, in what would become for Sister Prejean a lifelong involvement with death row inmates and victims’ families. Taking no sides in the issue of the death penalty, Dead Man Walking is a deeply moving story of the redemptive power of love.

Robbins crafted a powerful script for the stage, however, instead of taking the play to Broadway Robbins decided to offer it for one year to a selected number of schools and universities across the United States to perform and use as a focus for deepening reflection on the death penalty. The concept was to allow this group of schools to perform the play, and give him feedback. He would then write the definitive version and seek to get the play produced professionally on Broadway. Reports of how the powerful play stirred discussion in the local communities of the selected schools convinced Robbins to take the play “out of the box” and put it directly into the hands of students across America.  “The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project” was born, and has become, for both Robbins and Sister Prejean, a way of keeping alive discourse and dialogue around issues of social justice.

The Project makes the play available to schools and non-profit theatre groups across America, provided the play is not produced for commercial gain and at least two academic departments, in addition to the drama department, provide courses related to the themes and issues of the play. Art and/or music departments are also encouraged to sponsor creative projects related to the play.  To this end, Cabrillo College’s Theatre Arts Department partnered with Pisces Moon Productions in co-producing the show and collaborating around classes and events with Delta Charter High School. Cabrillo is currently offering a wintersession course, Backstage Production, taught by faculty member and set designer Skip Epperson, which takes place through the month of January. The class, which was created specifically for Dead Man Walking, was open to students of all ages, and includes over a dozen Delta students and Pisces Moon’s Young Theatre Company members. The course teaches the students to successfully mount a production in four weeks. The course work includes all set building, prop building and acquisition, costume construction, lighting and sound design.

The Cabrillo theater lobby will display an evocative collection of work in response to the themes of social justice and Dead Man Walking, which were created by Delta students, as well as artists who are incarcerated.

Delta Charter High School, part of the Santa Cruz City School District, was founded 13 years ago on the principles of social justice. Delta's principal, Mary Gaukel, and her faculty have created thematic courses as part of the school's curricula in Drama, Social Studies, Art, Science, Math and Literature. Course work has included Capital Punishment, Growth and Redemption, The Death Penalty in the United States, The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: Activism in Writing, Forensics--which examines the role of forensics in both conviction and exoneration, and Political Cartooning and Art.

Mary Gaukel is also at the helm of the community outreach aspect of the project, coordinating discussion forums through Cabrillo and presentations before church coalitions and business groups, with the aim of generating further interest in the production and building a greater environment for discourse.

Gaukel has also coordinated a very special visit to our community by Sister Maureen Fenlon, the national coordinator of the Play Project. An Adrian Dominican Sister, Maureen undertook pioneering work to humanize the U.S. prison system, in the 1970's by creating hospitality houses for prison visitors, initially in Talahassee, FL, serving a federal prison, and then creating a statewide system of visitor centers throughout California. Most recently, she was National Coordinator of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby based in Washington, D.C. During the past three decades, Sister Maureen has been involved in creating organizations, initiating programs, managing projects, and collaborating with a wide range of social change organizations, nationally and internationally. In these efforts, Sister  Maureen's work has been animated by her sensibilities as a cultural worker, with the infusion of the poetry, music, and art of peoples from around the world. The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project brings Sister Maureen's gifts both as a cultural worker and a social change activist into full play.

Sister Maureen will participate in a forum on capital punishment with the spiritual community of Santa Cruz, which will include all faiths.  This special event will take place on February 13 at 7 pm.

Maureen will also be at Cabrillo College for the February 15th performance of Dead Man Walking, and will lead a discussion with the audience afterwards.

Watch for Cabrillo College forums on social justice coming this spring.

What: Dead Man Walking by Tim Robbins

When: February 8 – 24, 2008. Fridays & Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM 

Where: Cabrillo College Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA 95060

Tickets: $15 general, $12 students, $10 w/ student activity card. Tickets at the door or at 877-238-5596.

Information: 479-6464 or www.piscesmoon.org

SPECIAL EVENTS WIH SISTER MAUREEN FENLON

What: Dead Man Walking – After show discussion with audience

When: Friday, February 15 — 8 PM showtime. Discussion to follow.

Where: Cabrillo College Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA 95060

Tickets: $15 general, $12 students, $10 w/ student activity card. Tickets at the door or at 877-238-5596.

Information: 479-6464 or www.piscesmoon.org

What: Social Justice Forum with spiritual community of Santa Cruz

When: Wednesday, February 13 —7 PM

Where: Location TBA

Information: 477-5212

About Cabrillo College
Cabrillo College
is a leading California community college serving Santa Cruz County with locations in Aptos, Scotts Valley and Watsonville. It is ranked #1 in transfers to UC Santa Cruz. Founded in 1959, the college offers over 100 academic and career technology programs that serve multiple educational goals such as A.A. and A.S. degrees, certificates of proficiency, skills certificates, transfer to 4-year institutions or for lifelong learning and personal enrichment. Our mission is to enhance the intellectual, cultural, and economic vitality of our diverse community by assisting all students in their quest for lifelong learning and success in an ever-changing world.

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