For graduate student Kristy Magee, the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project has been more than just a play. It has been a nearly two-year effort that has had a tremendous effect on her personally.
“I can certainly say that I am already forever changed by this experience at Pitt State, and hope each person involved with the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project is as well,” Magee said.
Magee directed the final piece of the project, the PSU Theatre’s production of the play “Dead Man Walking,” based on a book by Sister Helen Prejean. The production, April 26-30 in the PSU Studio Theatre, recounts Sister Helen Prejean’s journey as she befriends a convicted murderer in the days before his execution.
Staging any theater production is a major undertaking, but this interdisciplinary project asks organizers to go well beyond what is expected for a normal play.
“(One) element of the play was getting others involved on an academic or artistic level across campus surrounding the subject of capital punishment,” Magee said. “This is where the project itself got very unique. Most colleges get about two classes involved. Pitt State had over 10 classes and organizations involved on campus. The students participating in these classes and discussions were able to research the subject of capital punishment, debate about it, or apply it to their own majors in very unique ways. At the end the day, it was all about collaboration, respecting different academic disciplines and contrasting opinions, and how the arts can be used as an educational tool to bring people together.”
The cross-campus involvement in the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project resulted in a Performing Arts and Lecture Series appearance by Sister Helen Prjean and a lecture by Rob Warden, an award-winning legal affairs journalist and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law.
“When I first started working on this project nearly two years ago, I had no idea the amount of support and dedication that it would involve from Pitt State and the community of Pittsburg,” Magee said.
Magee said she saw project’s affect on campus.
“While the play has central themes revolving around freedom,” Magee said, “I also see this theme of freedom occurring around campus -- the freedom to express your own ideas both artistically and academically on a difficult subject matter, the freedom to major in what you love and make others more aware of everything your discipline entails, and the freedom to speak up and make a difference on campus and in society.”