ASHEVILLE NC – Sister Helen Prejean, the author, activist and nun who sparked national dialogue on the death penalty and whose book inspired the film “Dead Man Walking,” will speak at UNC Asheville, and the university will host a concert-style performance of the opera of the same name. Prejean’s talk, “The Journey Continues,” will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26, and is free and open to the public. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Both events take place in Lipinsky Auditorium.
Prejean began ministering to inmates on death row in 1981 and served as chair of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1993-95. Her book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States” (Random House, 1993) was adapted for the screen in 1995, and the film “Dead Man Walking,” starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, was seen by millions and nominated for four Academy Awards.
Prejean also is the author of “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions” (Random House, 2004) and is the honorary chairperson of Moratorium Campaign, a group gathering signatures for a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty.
“Dead Man Walking,” which speaks of faith, redemption and the struggles of families of murder victims as well as death row inmates, became the basis of an opera composed by Jake Heggie, with libretto by Terrence McNally. The opera, which premiered by the San Francisco Opera in 2000, will be presented concert style at UNC Asheville by The Modern American Music Project.
The performance will feature Jane Bunnell, Elise Quagliata, Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek, Simone Vigilante, and children’s and adult choirs. Tickets for the public range from $25-$40 and are available online at tmamp.org/productions.html or by phone at 800/595-4849. A limited number of tickets for UNC Asheville students are available for $5; and $15 for faculty/staff/OLLI members. For UNC Asheville affiliate tickets, visit the Cultural Events and Special Academic Programs website or call 828.251.6674.