Casting for Piven Theatre’s ‘Dead Man Walking’

image004 (3)Piven Theatre Workshop proudly presents 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. The 19-member cast is led by Patricia Lavery co-starring as Sister Prejean alongside Jay Reed as Matthew Poncelet. Dead Man Walking, directed by Mikalina Rabinsky, will be performed at Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street in Evanston, April 14-May 15, 2016. Robbins received a 1996 Academy Award nomination for directing the film adaptation of Sister Prejean’s autobiographical book, an unprecedented look at the human consequences of the death penalty. 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.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have this rich material that gives voice to people who normally don’t have their voices heard. Sister Helen’s story is so inspiring and is a wonderful challenge to us as humans and artists to live up to her example of social justice work,” said Rabinsky.


Dead Man Walking is the centerpiece of Piven Theatre’s The Quality of Mercy Project, an expansive three-month public programming initiative addressing issues of forgiveness, compassion and social justice. The Quality of Mercy Project is a collaborative effort of Piven Theatre Workshop and five key community partners: The Chicago Innocence Center, Evanston Art Center, Literature for All of Us, James B. Moran Center, and Evanston Township High School. A complete calendar of events, the majority of which will be free of charge and open to the public, can be found at

Performance schedule and tickets:

Dead Man Walking will be performed at Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street, April 14-May 15, 2016: Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2:30pm. Tickets, which range in price from $15-$35, are available by calling 847-866-8049 or by visiting

About Piven Theatre Workshop:

With Dead Man Walking, Piven Theatre Workshop continues its ongoing mission of premiering original works, 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 $30,000 in need and merit-based scholarships and maintains a professional theater and numerous community partnership programs throughout the Chicago area. For more information, please visit





Patricia Lavery (Sister Helen Prejean)

Blind Owl theater company member Patricia Lavery makes her Piven debut. Lavery has appeared in Chicago in Top Girls (Arc Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre), Enfrascada (A Hoodoo Comedy of Jarring Proportions)(16th Street Theater), and at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre as part of its Best of Chicago series. Additional credits include Mayday Mayday Tuesday (Merle Reskin Theatre) and An Ideal Husband (Weston Playhouse, Vermont). Film and television credits include Maid in Manhattan and numerous television commercials, one of which was featured on CBS’s Clash of the Commercials.

Jay Reed (Matthew Poncelet)

Jay Reed has been directed by Joyce Piven three times at Piven Theatre Workshop: in two Chekhov works – Ivanovand Three Sisters, and in Pinter’s The Collection. He made his Piven debut in the world premiere of Disappearing Acts: Nose and Overcoat. Additional Chicago credits include: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Steppenwolf for Young Adults), Sweet Phoebe (Runcible Theatre Company), Hamlet (for (Re)Discover Theatre at Live Bait), Richard III(Chicago Fusion Theatre), and The Big Funk (Red Tape Theater).


Mikalina Rabinsky (Director) a senior teacher at the Piven Theatre since 1998, has been a student of the Workshop since childhood. She has been engaged as a performer, a puppet, mask and spectacle creator, assistant director and director for numerous theaters including Piven Theatre, Manifest Theatre, Blair Thomas and Company, Local Infinities, Ravenous Productions, Northlight, Jen Onopa and Company and Ba Boom. Her work has been seen at Links Hall, The Ukrainian Institute of Art, Around the Coyote, Chicago’s Her-Ra Festival, Heart of Gold, The Spare Room, Redmoon Theatre, Rhythm Night Club and Millennium Park.

Tim Robbins (Playwright) ranks among contemporary cinema’s most acclaimed and provocative voices; a multifaceted talent who has acted in, written, directed and produced films including Mystic River, Catch a Fire,Dead Man Walking, The Shawshank Redemption, The Player, Bob Roberts, Bull Durham, Jacob’s Ladder, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Secret Life of Words and Cradle Will Rock. Robbins has served as the Artistic Director of The Actors’ Gang in L.A. since the company’s founding in 1981, by turns writing, directing and acting in the company’s productions. The Actors’ Gang has received international acclaim for presenting new, unconventional and uncompromising plays and dynamic reinterpretations of the classics in Los Angeles, throughout the United States and on five continents. The company was founded by a group of artists looking to create theater relevant to the society we live in and restore the ancient sense of the stage as a shared sacred space. The company’s Education and Outreach Program provides free theatre workshops to elementary, middle and high school youth; and the company’s Prison Project uses theater as a rehabilitative tool to prepare inmates for life beyond bars.

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ (Author) has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to state executions. She travels around the world giving talks about her ministry and considers herself a southern storyteller. Sister Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students. Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and began working at Hope House from 1981 – 1984. During this time, she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate Patrick Sonnier at Angola. She agreed and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience. The result was Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths. In doing so, she began to suspect that some of those executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions (Random House 2004). Sister Helen is presently at work on another book – River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.