A Letter from Tim Robbins
FROM TIM ROBBINS
AN INVITATION TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF AMERICA TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DEAD MAN WALKING SCHOOL THEATRE PROJECT
September, 2004 - April 2005
Dear Young Americans,
To widen the circle of public discourse on the death penalty I am offering the draft version of my play, Dead Man Walking, to be performed in selected high schools, colleges and universities across America. Like my earlier film, Dead Man Walking, this stage play is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s book of the same title. When the film hit theaters across the U.S. in 1996, I was amazed at the way it provoked discussion and debate on the death penalty, and to this day it continues to provoke deeper reflection on what I consider to be one of the key moral issues of our day. Does the death penalty truly help murder victims heal? Who benefits from the death penalty? What do we all feel about capital punishment? Can it be applied fairly? Raising questions promoting public discourse is what theatre is all about, and that’s why I’ve written the play.
Sister Helen has been encouraging me for some time to write the stage play, and now, four years later, it’s ready to go out as a work-in-progress, and who better to entrust it to than you, the young men and women of our nation I encourage you to get Sister Helen’s book and read it as you get involved in the play project. Her book gives the full background information and personal experiences that inform the play and the film.
I encourage you to perform the play as a dramatic reading or full stage production. I also encourage you to read scenes from the play in classes. In entrusting the play to you, my only requirements are that schools who participate:
- not produce the play for commercial gain;
- involve at least one other discipline or departments (sociology, theology, etc.) in a simultaneous study project on the issue of capital punishment;
- give me feedback on the play: how it “worked” or didn’t “work” and suggestions you may have for its improvement.
I welcome you as collaborators with me on this creative endeavor. On completion of the project, I will take into account your experiences and suggestions as I write the definitive version of the play for publication.
Make no mistake about it. What we are doing here by delving into the issue of capital punishment is true citizenry. Americans who debate and question government policies and laws do so because they love this nation and want to see it live up to its true potential. To engage in vigorous examination of issues that affect us is to live up to the noble ideas enshrined in our Constitution.
Dig into the issue.
Get informed. Make theatre. Take action or don’t.
Becoming an active, engaged citizen and participation in discourse around the big issues of our day is exhilarating. Be a player, not just a spectator.
I hope you join us in this ambitious enterprise.