About two dozen Jesuit high schools and universities are the first to perform the actor’s play, which he derived from the movie he wrote and directed. The film was based on the book of the same name written by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, about her experience of ministering to death-row inmate, Matthew Poncelet.
Robbins made it a point to invite Jesuit institutions to be the first to produce the play. “Tim has chosen Jesuit schools because he has high regard for the way Jesuit schools emphasize social justice as integral to Catholicism,” says Prejean.
Robbins hopes the play will “widen the circle of public discourse on the death penalty.” He calls his play a work in progress and says he wrote it because “raising questions, promoting public discourse is what theater is all about.”
At Xavier, junior Andy Oare will portray Poncelet and senior Katy Leslie will take on the role of Sr. Prejean.
“This is a very important project and it’s exceptional for Xavier to have it,” says Oare. “All the actors have a common vision and I’m confident the production will be outstanding.”
“We hope the production will push the audience beyond its normal boundaries and think about things they haven’t thought about before,” says Leslie.
To help prepare for their roles and to better understand the issue, every member of the cast, and the play’s director, Cathy Springfield, have written letters to death row inmates. The letter writing project was coordinated by Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati.
The production will open with a film, produced by the Xavier Players, which Springfield calls “expressive” of Poncelet’s crime. A different version of the film will be shown during the play as Poncelet nears his execution.
“We hope the films will make people focus on their own feelings about a ‘life for a life’,” says Springfield, director of performing arts.
The Xavier production will be coordinated with other activities and explorations into the subject of the death penalty. During the week of the show there will be a debate on the topic of the death penalty where both sides of the issue will be represented. After each performance representatives of victims’ support groups will be on hand to answer questions and discuss the topic. Several campus groups, including the Dorothy Day House and Peace and Justice Programs, will distribute information on the death penalty and have petitions calling for a moratorium and/or a ban on the death penalty available for signing.
The production involves a very minimal set designed by Tammy Honesty and a sound scape by Chuck Hatcher from the College Conservatory of Music (CCM). Three students from CCM Prep are part of the 30-member cast.
“The simplicity of the set focuses on the relationships in the script,” Springfield says. “I hope it will strike a deep emotional cord.”
For more information log on to: www.xu.edu/student_life/players