Sr. Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, made a surprise visit to Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, CA on Sunday, October 7th. Sr. Helen was visiting California to engage support for California’s Proposition #34, which will replace the death penalty in California, and met Peter Jeensalute, the Crespi Players’ director. Imagine the students’ stunned surprise when she stepped out of the small audience to speak with them about her real-life role as spiritual advisor to numerous death row inmates!
Sr. Helen enjoyed talking with the students for almost an hour, listening to their reflections about their experience working on the play. She asked Casey McGinnis how it felt to play the part of the prison chaplain, and asked Ky Jones and Katelyn Norman about their experiences portraying Sr. Helen in the play. She asked Joe Santi how tough it was to play the prison guard and Gavin Samples & Mark Sasaki what they wanted to know about the death row inmate they were portraying.
Sister Helen explained she was very touched by the students’ performances and she appreciated their work very much – pointing out that many of the audience members who will see their play would never otherwise know what it’s like inside a prison execution. This play will likely be the only time they will experience the humanity of what truly happens. She thanked everyone for their hard work and was especially excited when Mr. Jeensalute presented her with Crespi play posters autographed by the entire cast and crew.
The production, featuring students from Crespi and Louisville High School, runs Oct 12-14 and 19-21. Other productions of Dead Man Walking will run across the country- at Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines, IA (Oct 14-16); Brighton High School in Rochester, NY (Oct 26-27); and George Washington High School in San Francisco, CA (Oct 26-27, Nov 2-3). For a full calendar of all upcoming performances, and for more information on the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, please visit www.dmwplay.org.
This article first appeared in CMN’s October 2012 newsletter.