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Piven Theatre Workshop is spending the spring meditating on compassion, connection and community through its Quality of Mercy Project. Through a series of programs and discussions and in partnership with five institutions involved in social justice, the theater poses these questions to the community: “Where is the intersection of justice and mercy? What is the human consequence of the justice system?”
“Dead Man Walking” opens April 16 at the Piven Theatre Workshop, located in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. The play, by Tim Robbins, is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s national bestseller and tells the story of Sister Prejean’s journey through the American system of capital punishment. Through the lens of her role as spiritual advisor to a death row inmate, the play meditates on the deeper issues of justice and mercy and the implication of our involvement in the human consequences of our justice system: the condemned, the bereaved, the executed, the executioner, the individual, and the community.
Sister Prejean has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s vigorous opposition to state executions. Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners.
Upcoming events in the Quality of Mercy Project are as follows:
April 16, Sister Prejean will read from and sign copies of her book from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Bookends & Beginnings, 1712 Sherman Ave.
April 17, After the performance of “Dead Man Walking” at Piven Theatre Workshop, there will be a talk-back with Tom Verdun, currently Senior Attorney of the Moran Center, who was a member of the Murder Task Force in Illinois and defended numerous clients on capital cases. $5 of each ticket price will be donated to the Moran Center.
April 19, 7 p.m. Screening and discussion of “The Innocent,” a documentary by Lauri Feldman Fisher about men and women wrongly sentenced to death who lived to tell about it. Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.
April 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Panel discussion moderated by Pamela Cytrynbaum, Director of the Chicago Innocence Center, and featuring panelists Jeanne Bishop, a murder victim’s sister, veteran defense attorney and author of Change of Heart; Gilo Kwesi Logan, Evanston-based diversity consultant, educator, writer and speaker; Brant Rosen, Regional Director of American Friends Service Committee, and Rabbi from Tzedek Chicago; and Rev. Taurean Webb, Assistant Pastor at the Second Baptist Church of Evanston. They will discuss their complicated work finding where mercy meets justice. Rotary International Auditorium, 1560 Sherman Ave.
April 23, 4-6 p.m. “The Black Male Experience in Evanston: What is it like to be a black male in Evanston?” This panel discussion explores the history of black males in Evanston, their current experience, and challenges and opportunities they face in Evanston in the future. Panelists include Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Circuit Court Judge of Cook County; Bennett Johnson, President, Path Press, Inc.; Nathan Norman, Youth and Young Adult Outreach Worker, City of Evanston; Dino Robinson, Founder of Shorefront and the Shorefront Legacy Center; and Dereck Woods, 28-year volunteer coach of F.A.A.M., and co-founder of Black Men Against Violence. Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.
April 23, After the performance of “Dead Man Walking” at Piven Theatre Workshop, there will be a talk-back with a local artist to discuss how art can highlight and address areas of social justice in the community. $5 of each ticket price will be donated to the Evanston Art Center.
April 25, 6 p.m. Curt’s Café Community Conversation: “Youth, Stereotyping, and Criminalization: How Our Community is Affected,” moderated panel conversation with young men from Curt’s Café North about the ways criminalization occurs in the community, its lasting effects, and alternatives to the current model for ensuring safety. Curt’s Café North, 2922 Central St.
April 30, After the performance of “Dead Man Walking” at Piven Theatre Workshop, Literature for All of Us staff members will perform two poems from the curricula they created and implemented with more than 200 participants across Chicago and Evanston. $5 of each ticket price donated to Literature for All of Us.
May 7, After the performance of “Dead Man Walking” at Piven Theatre Workshop, there will be a talk-back with several Evanston Township High School students who participated in a partnership among the high school, Piven Theatre, and community organizations. Throughout the rehearsal process, students in ETHS’ History and Social Science classes engaged in extensive research and inquiry about themes in “Dead Man Walking” in order to inform and enhance the production design elements of the show. ETHS will offer student voice and perspective to the Quality of Mercy project: A number of student leaders will talk about what it was like to research Louisiana prisons, the history of the death penalty in America, and more. $5 of each ticket price will be donated to Evanston Township High School.
May 8, 2 p.m., A First-Look Reading of #LOVESTORIES: Inspired by BLACK LIVES MATTER, with Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. #LOVESTORIES by Gloria Bond-Clunie, Marsha Estell, and Tania Richard is a play in three parts exploring the breadth of love in a world of deadly conflict. Each playwright takes her turn sharing her gift of writing to tell a story of LOVE. Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.
May 14, After the performance of “Dead Man Walking” at Piven Theatre Workshop, there will be a talk-back with Pamela Cytrynbaum and exonerated survivors who have worked with the Chicago Innocence Center to educate the public on wrongful incarceration and the effect on the community. $5 of each ticket price will be donated to the Chicago Innocence Center.