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Sister Helen Prejean to speak at Drake’s Sheslow Auditorium as part of Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of Dead Man Walking

April 8, 2014

Sister Helen Prejean will discuss capital punishment at Sheslow Auditorium on the Drake University campus on May 6 at 7 p.m. The lecture is called Dead Man Walking—The Journey Continues: A Conversation with Sister Helen Prejean.

Sister Helen’s visit to Des Moines is in support of Des Moines Metro Opera’s production Dead Man Walking, opening June 28 and running in repertory through July 19, 2014. The lecture, a collaborative effort of the Drake University Law School and Des Moines Metro Opera, is free and open to the public.

Sister Helen, a Catholic nun from Louisiana, became the spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier, convicted murderer, and witnessed his execution. In 1993, she documented her life-changing experiences in a best-selling book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, which was adapted for an Oscar-winning film featuring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen in 1996. In 2000, the San Francisco Opera commissioned the adaptation of the book and film into what became one of the most revered American contemporary operas.

“Drake University is delighted by the opportunity to collaborate with Des Moines Metro Opera in presenting a lecture by Sister Helen Prejean, who will speak about the death penalty,” says Drake University President David Maxwell. “This is the kind of complex issue that must be debated in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility, and supporting this kind of discourse is a fundamental responsibility of the university in a civil society."

Dead Man Walking and Sister Helen’s latest book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, will be on sale at the lecture.

A Nobel Prize-nominated activist and advocate, Sister Helen has witnessed multiple executions and describes herself as “an ordinary person who got involved in extraordinary events.” She continues to travel the world bringing the issues of capital punishment to a public forum.

“Larger-than-life and down-to-earth, she is truly the kind of person that makes the perfect opera heroine,” said Michael Egel, Des Moines Metro Opera’s general and artistic director.

Performances of Dead Man Walking will be held at the Blank Performing Arts Center on the Simpson College campus, opening June 29 and continuing on July 8, 11 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee on July 6 at 2:00 p.m. All performances will be sung in English. Because of the mature subject matter and a brief nudity scene, this production is not recommended for those under 18 years of age.