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SXU and Mother McAuley present play Dead Man Walking

Sister Helen Prejean to speak on opening night at McAuley Theatre

Chicago (March 21, 2007) – Saint Xavier University and Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School invite you to one of the most important theater experiences of the year. The play Dead Man Walking will be performed March 30-31 at McAuley Theatre, 3797 W. 99th St., Chicago, beginning at 8 p.m. each evening.

The production is part of the “Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project,” in which schools around the country produce the play in coordination with their local communities in an interdisciplinary discussion of the death penalty. Leading up to the production, Saint Xavier and Mother McAuley will address the death penalty through a variety of in-class activities and disciplines ranging from theology, the sciences, art history, foreign languages, physical education, drama, writing and composition, and music. Students at Saint Xavier are also planning an “open mike” night on the subject of the death penalty.

“The play project is completely unique in that it combines both the theatre production and the study of the issue,” said Sister Maureen Fenlon, O.P., national coordinator of the project. “What is so remarkable to me is that Saint Xavier and Mother McAuley incorporated well over a dozen classes. That’s really a commitment that is unmatched.”

The play, written by actor Tim Robbins, is based on the non-fiction book Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., a Roman Catholic nun. The story focuses on her unique relationship with convicted murderer Patrick Sonnier, who was sentenced to death by electrocution. Prejean became a leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. Prejean will lead a pre-performance conversation on opening night at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 30, in the McAuley Auditorium. 

In celebration of the 160th anniversary of the founding Saint Francis Xavier Female Academy, the forerunner of Saint Xavier University and Mother McAuley High School, the play’s 40-member cast is composed entirely of students, faculty, staff and alumni from the two schools and Brother Rice High School.  

Saint Xavier freshman Sarah Rakauskas will play the part of Sister Helen Prejean. Already a four-year veteran of McAuley Theatre productions from her time as a student there, Rakauskas said she was both thrilled and humbled to play the role knowing that Sister Prejean will be in the audience. 

“She’s such a great woman, so inspiring and powerful. It’s truly an honor,” Rakauskas said. “She was able to give so freely and willing to help others, no matter what.” 

Death row inmate Matthew Poncelet will be played by Saint Xavier senior Kevin LeCompte. LeCompte said he was drawn to the realistic portrayal of the death row inmate. “They don’t paint him like a victim. They do not hide how wrong he was, how wrong his crimes were, how ignorant he was during his trial,” LeCompte said. “It’s a complex character, and I think it brings a lot of issues about humanity in general to the surface.” 

For more information about the production and to reserve tickets for $8 each, please contact Patricia Haynes at (773) 881-6512 or visit www.sxu.edu/anniversary/dead_man_walking.asp





Contact Joe Moore

(773) 298-3937 or jmoore@sxu.edu


Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846, Saint Xavier University was the first Mercy college in the United States and is Chicago’s oldest Catholic university. Serving approximately 5,700 students at its campuses in Chicago, Orland Park and at its Loop location, the University offers 35 undergraduate majors; more than 40 graduate program options in arts and sciences, business, education and nursing; and a variety of program options in continuing and professional studies. Recognizing Saint Xavier’s excellence in education, U.S. News & World Report has ranked SXU consistently among the Best Colleges in the Midwest.



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