Piven Theatre Workshop announces The Quality of Mercy Project, March-May
In conjunction with its upcoming production of Tim Robbins’ Dead Man Walking, April 14-May 15, 2016, Piven Theatre Workshop proudly announces The Quality of Mercy Project, an expansive three-month public programming initiative inviting discussion of the complex issues arising from the themes of the play, including, but certainly not limited to: forgiveness, compassion, the death penalty, mass incarceration, racial inequity, and social justice. Among highlights of The Quality of Mercy Project are panel discussions addressing Life and Death in the Criminal Justice System, Finding a Path Where Forgiveness and Justice Can Intersect, and The Black Male Experience in Evanston; a screening and discussion of The Innocent, a documentary about men and women wrongly sentenced to death who lived to tell about it; and a special reading and book signing with Sister Helen Prejean whose best-selling book, Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate,has been adapted for the stage.
The majority of The Quality of Mercy Project programming is free of charge and open to the public, and will be presented at a variety of venues in Evanston, IL, March – May 2016.
The Quality of Mercy Project is a collaborative effort of Piven Theatre Workshop with five key community partners: The Chicago Innocence Center, Evanston Art Center, Literature for All of Us, James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, and Evanston Township High School. Each week during the run of Dead Man Walking, Piven Theatre Workshop will highlight the work of one of these featured partners. During these weeks, members of the organization will participate in talk-backs after a performance, a night of the week will have a special ticket price in which a portion will go to support the partners’ programs, and audience members will have a chance to learn more about what these venerable institutions are doing to effect change within the community.
“Our work celebrates the human spirit and The Quality of Mercy Project is a meditation on justice and social responsibility. This is an unprecedented collaboration and one we hope to continue. Engaging the community in wider discussions elevates our work and elevates public dialogues,” said Jennifer Green, Piven Theatre Workshop Artistic Director.
Following are among programming initiatives; the most current The Quality of Mercy Project schedule can be found by visiting http://piventheatre.org/deadmanwalking
SPECIAL EVENTS (free unless otherwise noted)
(PANEL DISCUSSION) Life and Death in the Criminal Justice System
Illinois is at the epicenter of both profound corruption and reform in criminal justice. We lead the nation in false confessions, yet our state made international news by ending the death penalty. What is it like to be on the front lines of defending clients in death penalty cases? What happens to innocent people on Death Row? Hear the firsthand accounts from an attorney and an investigative journalist: Tom Verdun was a 15-year member of the Murder Task Force who defended numerous clients facing the death penalty and now serves as Senior Staff Attorney of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. Pamela Cytrynbaum is an investigative reporter who has covered death penalty cases around the country and is now the Executive Director of the Chicago Innocence Center.
Thursday, March 24, 7:00–8:30pm, at Bookends and Beginnings, 1712 Sherman, Evanston
(PERFORMANCE) A Piven Pop-up Show!
Piven Theatre Workshop’s legendary youth performers bring their show on the road to Evanston Art Center’s new building for a pop-up storytelling show. Actors will present stories of how individuals come to see the ramifications of bullying and injustice.
Sunday, April 3, 2:30pm, at Evanston Art Center, 1717 Central Street, Evanston
(READING) Reading and Book Signing with Sister Helen Prejean
A reading and discussion with the woman whose story has inspired millions. Sister Helen 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.
Saturday, April 16, 1-2:30pm, at Bookends & Beginnings
(FILM SCREENING) The Innocent by Lauri Feldman Fisher
A screening and discussion of The Innocent, a documentary about men and women wrongly sentenced to death who lived to tell about it. The director, subjects of the film, and members of the justice community will be present for a discussion immediately after the screening. Premiered at Chicago International Documentary Film Festival where it was chosen as audience favorite.
Tuesday, April 19, 7:00pm, at Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston
(PANEL) Compassion in the Court? Can Mercy Meet Justice?
The American criminal justice system is a system of retribution, vengeance, and punishment. This important panel discussion addresses: What does that mean for the guilty, the innocent and the victims left behind? And what of mercy, of forgiveness, of rehabilitation and redemption? Religious traditions and global models of restorative justice offer alternative paths of healing and transformation by expanding the intersection of mercy and justice. Moderator Pamela Cytrynbaum, Director of the Chicago Innocence Center, is joined by a diverse panel of experts working for justice from a wide range of theologies and perspectives including: Jeanne Bishop, murder-victim’s sister, veteran defense attorney and author of Change of Heart; Gilo Kwesi Logan, diversity consultant, educator, writer & 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.
Wednesday, April 20, 6:30–8:30pm, at Rotary International Auditorium, 1560 Sherman Avenue, Third Floor, Evanston
(PANEL) The Black Male Experience in Evanston
This discussion asks the question: What is it like to be a Black male in Evanston? and explores the history of the black male in Evanston, their current experience, as well as challenges and opportunities this poses for Evanston in the future. Personal testimonies will be shared as well as what the latest research says of race relations among Evanston families, in its institutions, and across its communities. Panelists include Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Circuit Court Judge of Cook County; Bennett Johnson, President, Path Press, Inc.; Nathan Norman, Youth/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. (Fellowship of Afro-American Men), and co-founder, Black Men Against Violence.
Saturday, April 23, 4-6p.m. at Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston
(PANEL) Curt’s Café Community Conversation- Youth, Stereotyping, and Criminalization: How our Community is Affected
This moderated conversation showcases a panel of young men from Curt’s Café North, designed to provide training to at-risk youth in Evanston in both food service and life. To be discussed are the ways criminalization occurs in our community, its lasting effects, and alternatives to the current model for ensuring safety. Conversation will be centered on the stories of young people and how their lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system.
Monday, April 25, 6p.m. at Curt’s Café North, 2922 Central Street, Evanston
(READING) A First Look Reading of #LOVESTORIES: Inspired by BLACK LIVES MATTER with Fleetwood-
#LOVESTORIES: Inspired by BLACK LIVES MATTER 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. This is a special sneak peek of a world premiere play commissioned by Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre.
Sunday, May 8, 3pm, at Evanston Public Library
COMMUNITY PARTNER OF THE WEEK SERIES
Each week during the run of Dead Man Walking (April 14 – May 15), Piven Theatre Workshop will highlight the work of one of its featured partners:
April 14-17, 2016: The James B Moran Center for Youth Advocacy provides low income Evanston youth and their families with integrated legal and social work services to improve their quality of life at home, at school, and within the Evanston community. A talk back with Tom Verdun, currently Senior Staff Attorney of the Moran Center, who was a member of the Murder Task Force in Illinois and defended numerous clients on capital cases, takes place following the performance Sunday, April 17. The special ticket price for this performance is $35, with $5 from each ticket going to support the Moran Center’s programming.
April 21-24, 2016: Evanston Art Center is dedicated to fostering the appreciation and expression of the arts among diverse audiences by offering extensive and innovative instruction in broad areas of artistic endeavor through classes, exhibitions, interactive arts activities, and community outreach. A talkback with a local artist discussing their work and how art can highlight and address areas of social justice in the community takes place following the performance Saturday, April 23. The special ticket price for this performance is $35, with $5 from each ticket going to support the Moran Center’s programming.
April 28 – May 1, 2016: Literature for All of Us brings the rewards of reading and writing through book group discussions to teen parents and other young people in underserved neighborhoods. Since January, youth from LFAOU, the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Curt’s Café, and seven alternative Chicago high schools have been working side-by-side with professional writers to create responses to its curricula centering on the theme “Dead Man Walking: Transforming Justice.” Literature for All of Us is proud to produce a published journal of poetry based on this work and LFAOU staff members will perform two poems from the curricula they created after the performance Saturday, April 30. The special ticket price for this performance is $35, with $5 from each ticket going to support LFAOU’s programming.
May 5-8, 2016: Evanston Township High School (ETHS) is a premier high school, serving more than 3,300 students and their families in Evanston and a portion of Skokie. Ranked in the top 2% of high schools in the nation, ETHS is committed to inspiring a lifelong passion for learning through a lens of equity and excellence. ETHS dedicates itself to educating all students to their fullest potential and empowering them to build a vision of what it takes to be successful today, and in the future. A special talk back features several ETHS students who participated in a unique partnership between 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 present in Dead Man Walking, in order to inform and enhance the production design elements of the show. 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, after the performance Saturday, May 7. The special ticket price for this performance is $35, with $5 from each ticket going to support ETHS programming.
May 12-15, 2016: Chicago Innocence Center investigates cases in which prisoners may have been convicted of crimes they did not commit, with priority to murder cases that resulted in sentences of death or life without parole. Led by its Executive Director, Pamela Cytrynbaum, an alumna of Piven Theatre Workshop, the Center does not represent clients in criminal cases, but after its investigation is completed, outside counsel may bring new evidence of innocence to court; their fundamental goal is to expose and remedy wrongdoing by the criminal justice system. Cytrynbaum and exonerees who have worked with the Chicago Innocence Center participate in a talkback following the performance Saturday, May 14, to educate the public on wrongful incarceration and the effect on our community. The special ticket price for this performance is $35, with $5 from each ticket going to support Chicago Innocence Center work.
A is for Activist! Exhibit at Evanston Art Center with Literature For All Of Us
Literature for All of Us is partnering with the Evanston Art Center and the Juvenile Temporary Detention center to produce an art installation based on participant work, including an “A is for Activist” themed quilt with patches designed by program participants and assembled by local artist Margaret Ann Crain. Also on display will be a project of #dearevanston, a multi-platform social media campaign designed to examine issues of violence in Evanston and explore ways to prevent it. The two-month campaign, in April and May, seeks to engage the entire Evanston community in creative and powerful conversations about the causes of violence, ways in which violence affect us all and what part each of us can play to end it.
April and May at Evanston Art Center
Dead Man Walking: Transforming Justice—A Journal
Literature for All of Us is proud to produce a published journal of poetry based on work with constituents in their literature-based programs in Evanston and Chicago. Students writing side-by-side with professional writers create responses to its curricula centering on the theme “Dead Man Walking: Transforming Justice.” The journal will be available for sale at all performances of Dead Man Walking and copies will also be available at Bookends & Beginnings and at all public programs as part of the Quality of Mercy Project.
PIVEN THEATRE WORKSHOP PRESENTS TIM ROBBINS’ DEAD MAN WALKING
Serving as the centerpiece of The Quality of Mercy Project is Dead Man Walking, a play by Tim Robbins, adapted from the 1993 best-seller Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate by Sister Helen Prejean. Robbins’ powerful adaptation tells the story of Sister Helen’s journey through this country’s 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 that we are all involved in the human consequences of our justice system: the condemned, the bereaved, the executed, the executioner, the individual, the community. Dead Man Walking, directed by Mikalina Rabinsky, will be performed at Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street in Evanston, April 14-May 15, 2016. Tickets, which range in price from $15-$35, are now available by calling 847-866-8049 or by visiting www.piventheatre.org.
About Piven Theatre Workshop:
With Dead Man Walking, Piven Theatre Workshop continues its ongoing mission of presenting literary adaptations, and its history of exploring issues of empathy and community. Piven Theatre Workshop has excelled as a leader in the arts community for 45 years, maintaining a distinguished legacy in the training of children and adults in the theater arts. Annually, between onsite and off-site programming, the theater trains more than 1,000 students, provides more than $40,000 in need and merit-based scholarships and maintains a professional theater and numerous community partnership programs throughout the Chicago area. For more information on The Quality of Mercy Project or Piven Theatre Workshop, please visitwww.piventheatre.org.