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Notre Dame de Namur University To Stage Theatrical Premiere of Dead Man Walking; Opening Night Reception to Be Attended by Sean Penn, Sister Helen Prejean and Others.

BELMONT, Calif. -- Dead Man Walking -- the classic, compelling look at the complexities of faith, forgiveness, life, death, and the death penalty -- first captured the American imagination as a book, then as an Academy award-winning movie, then as an opera.

On October 22, Dead Man Walking -- the play -- will make its theatrical premiere at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) Theatre.

Written for the stage by a director who understands the book's depth and compassion very well -- Tim Robbins, who directed Susan Sarandon in her Academy-award winning performance in the film Dead Man Walking -- the play will launch with an incredible opening night reception, performance, and post-performance discussion on October 22, 2004, with author Sister Helen Prejean, Academy-award winner Sean Penn (Sarandon's co-star in the original film), actor Mike Farrell and Susan Sarandon (who is still to be confirmed) in attendance.

The play will continue with performances on October 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31 and November 5, 6, and 7. It promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for actors and audience alike. "This staging of Dead Man Walking will be a powerful experience. The script is exceptional and demands maximum intensity from both cast and crew," noted Michael B. Elkins, the director and chair of the Theatre Arts Department. "We are staging the play so it retains the original power that Sister Helen captures in her book, and those familiar with the movie will recognize the general thrust and intentions of the film. But there's nothing like a live performance -- the immediacy of it, the intimacy of the theatre space. We've taken the life-and-death themes of the work and deepened them through innovative lighting, and stark, contemporary design."

As a book, movie, and opera, Dead Man Walking has done for the death penalty what Rachel Carson's Silent Spring did so many years ago in awakening national concern for the environment. Now as a play, Sr. Helen and Robbins hope to extend the discussion of the moral issues of the death penalty to new audiences. By special invitation from Tim Robbins, NDNU is one of a few select universities chosen to perform this new play.

"This powerful event began with a visit to campus in 2002 by Sister Helen. Over the many subsequent months, this project was nurtured by the efforts of Tim Robbins, Sr. Helen, and our dedicated faculty. We imagined a significant event and through the considerable contributions of many, we are privileged to present this outstanding premiere," says Lucille Sansing, Provost of Notre Dame de Namur University.

This important play is part of a year-long examination of the death penalty by the NDNU School of Arts and Humanities Center for Social Justice and is produced by Special Arrangement with Tim Robbins and the DEAD MAN WALKING SCHOOL THEATRE PROJECT. Additional events include an art exhibit "Art from the Inside: Drawings by Chicano Prisoners;" a panel discussion considering both sides of the death penalty issue (panelists include the Public Information Officer for San Quentin); and a performance of "Quartet for the End of Time" (composed in a Nazi concentration camp and premiered in Stalag-8A in January, 1941).

Founded in 1851 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Notre Dame de Namur University is an independent Catholic, coeducational institution. The fifth oldest institution of higher education in California, it was authorized in 1868 to be the first college in the state to offer baccalaureate degrees to women. As the only four-year accredited university in San Mateo County, NDNU offers liberal arts and professional preparation undergraduate programs, evening degree and certificate programs for working adults, and graduate degrees in more than a dozen areas of study. The campus is located on 50 acres of rolling hillside in the town of Belmont just south of San Francisco.

The theatre is located at 1500 Ralston Avenue in Belmont. Tickets for the opening performance, which begins at 7:00 p.m., cost $200 and includes a pre-performance reception beginning at 5:00 p.m. Tickets for this event and information regarding subsequent performances may be obtained by contacting 650-508-4177 or e-mail at For more information, please visit our website at
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Date:Sep 8, 2004
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