|July 31 , 2008
The death penalty will take center stage at St. Bonaventure University this fall as the Theater Program will produce the play “Dead Man Walking” and the University welcomes Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book by the same name.
The SBU Theater season opener will run at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5-8 in the Rigas Family Theater of The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on campus.
The SBU Theater production of “Dead Man Walking” will be directed by Dr. Ed. Simone, who chairs the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, and designed by Rebecca Misenheimer, assistant professor of theater. Simone chose the play to be the theater program’s contribution to St. Bonaventure’s 150th Anniversary Celebration because of its strong themes of social justice and non-violence.
“Dead Man Walking” is based on the book of the same title by Prejean, who wrote of her early experiences ministering to inmates on Louisiana’s death row. Prejean’s book was made into a controversial film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn and directed by Tim Robbins, who worked with Prejean on the screenplay. When Simone met Prejean at an international theater conference last year, Prejean told him how the stage version of “Dead Man Walking” came to be.
“After the film was released, Tim Robbins and Sr. Helen didn’t want their collaboration to end,” said Simone. “Robbins went back to the book and wrote a stage play. There’s some material from the screenplay, of course, but the play is more presentational — the themes of social justice are dealt with in a more direct way.”
The play involves actors playing multiple roles and directly addressing the audience. It focuses on Prejean’s relationship with one particular inmate, Matt Poncelet, on death row for rape and murder. Poncelet maintains his innocence, and Prejean must face the horrible truth of the crime while fighting Poncelet’s death sentence. In the play, Prejean faces the audience and engages them in her struggle.
The play is unique in another way, according to Simone.
“The stage version of ‘Dead Man Walking’ is part of the national Dead Man Walking Theater Project and is available only to schools,” said Simone. “Universities, colleges and the secondary schools that produce the play must also present lectures, classes and other events to educate students and the communities about the issue of the death penalty.”
The Dead Man Walking Theater Project involves productions of the play, online resources, course materials, and a national network of educators, politicians, former inmates and others who speak on the topic of the death penalty and its effects on society. Its goal is to educate and promote social action. To date, “Dead Man Walking” has been produced by universities across the U.S., including Yale, Fordham, Notre Dame, Ashland, Loyola, the University of North Carolina and many more.
“St. Bonaventure’s theater program is in good company doing ‘Dead Man Walking,’” added Misenheimer. “What’s great about the project is that each school that produces the show adds its own special treatment to the history of the piece, and its own unique discussions and classes.”
That’s exactly what Simone thought when he heard Prejean and Robbins speak about the project in New Orleans last summer.
“I spoke with Sr. Helen and told her we wanted to produce the play and join the project and asked if she’d come to SBU to speak. She was very enthusiastic about the idea of St. Bonaventure joining the project and about coming to speak here,” said Simone.
Simone took his ideas to Emily Sinsabaugh, SBU’s vice president for University Relations, who brought University President Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F, into the discussions.
Prejean, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, was a little-known Roman Catholic nun from Louisiana when, in 1993, “Dead Man Walking,” her first book, challenged the way the death penalty in America is looked at. It became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
The University’s Franciscan Center for Social Concern will sponsor Prejean’s Nov. 11 public lecture on campus. The program, “Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues,” will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, in the Reilly Center Arena. The event is free and open to the public. Additional details about Prejean’s November visit and a book signing will be announced soon.
Also this fall, St. Bonaventure will offer special death penalty and social justice lecture opportunities and Dr. Barry Gan, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Nonviolence at St. Bonaventure, is offering a special topics philosophy course on the death penalty. “Dead Man Walking” was chosen as the fall selection for Alle-Catt Reads, making the book a topic for discussion and debate among readers throughout Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. Audience talkbacks are scheduled after performances of the SBU Theater production.
“SBU Theater is both participating in and facilitating a national forum on a terribly important issue,” said Simone. “It’s a great opportunity for our developing theater program to impact audiences both on the St. Bonaventure campus and in the community.”
Tickets for the
November production of “Dead Man Walking” are available by calling the
Quick Center for the Arts Box Office at (716) 375-2494. “Dead Man Walking”
contains adult subjects and language.
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The most energetic campus construction campaign in the history of St. Bonaventure is winding down and one of its showcase pieces, the new William F. Walsh Science Center, is built, furnished and ready for the fall semester, its inaugural academic season.
- Work is about to begin on renovation of the men’s basketball locker room and team room in the Reilly Center.
- Renovation of the Office of Admissions in Hopkins Hall is under way. Space is being reconfigured and restrooms improved. Work also includes new flooring, new artwork and a fresh coat of paint.
- A donation from
Olean philanthropists Louis and Patricia Magnano will allow for
construction of a new entry to the east side of Hickey Dining Hall. In
addition to enhancing the appearance of the building, the entryway will
serve as an airlock to keep cold weather outside. The dining complex, to
be named Magnano Centre, will house Hickey Dining Hall and Café La
The St. Bonaventure University annual fundraising campaign, the Bonaventure Fund, raised $2,390,585 in fiscal year 2008, exceeding its goal of $2.365 million.
The generous donations and loyal support of alumni, parents and friends made the 2008 fiscal year ending May 31 the best Bonaventure Fund year to date, exceeding last year’s total by more than $178,000. The alumni participation rate for this year is 22 percent.
The Bonaventure Fund, comprised of unrestricted donations, goes toward the greatest needs of the University. The overall Annual Fund, including designated and undesignated gifts, raised more than $3 million this year.
Mary Driscoll, associate vice president for advancement, said that reaching this goal “demonstrates that teamwork, cooperation and a commitment to succeed prevails at St. Bonaventure. Our success would not have been realized without the tremendous work of our volunteers.”
The Anniversary Campaign for St. Bonaventure University, which will conclude on May 31, 2009, has raised more than $89 million of its $90 million goal. Of this goal, $18 million, or 20 percent, of the Anniversary Campaign is for the annual Bonaventure Fund. More than $10 million was raised in the 2008 fiscal year.
Key volunteers who have contributed to these achievements include:
Raymond Dee, ’64, member of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Development Committee
Leslie C. Quick, III, ‘75, member of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Campaign Committee
Marvin Stocker, ’65, President of the National Alumni Association Board and member of the Board of Trustees
Robert Crowley, ’71, and Charlie Riley, ’01, Co-Chairs for the 2008 Bonaventure Fund.
From its beginning in 1888, the Annual Fund has been the primary vehicle through which alumni and friends have provided support for the intellectual, social and spiritual experience that is St. Bonaventure University.
To make a gift to the Bonaventure Fund visit www.sbu.edu/donate
Dr. Robert Amico, professor of philosophy, delivered a paper titled “A Qualitative Analysis of Student Attitudes and Beliefs About White Privilege” at the Third International Conference of Interdisciplinary Social Science in Prato, Tuscany, Italy, July 22, 2008. Also, Amico and Dr. Anita Saunders co-facilitated the 7th Annual Four College Faculty and Staff Summer Seminar in Curriculum and Program Transformation, June 16-21, 2008, hosted this year by Alfred University. The participating schools were St. Bonaventure University, Alfred University, Alfred State College and Houghton College.