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Dead Man Walking cast announced for March 30-31 production

Sister Helen Prejean to speak on opening night at McAuley Theatre

Chicago (March 9, 2007) – The cast is set and rehearsals have begun for a joint production of the play Dead Man Walking to be performed March 30-31 at the McAuley Theatre of the Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, 3797 W. 99th St., Chicago. 

In celebration of the 160th anniversary of Saint Xavier Academy and College, the forerunners of the Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School and Saint Xavier University, the play’s 40-member cast is composed entirely of students, staff and alumni of Saint Xavier University, Mother McAuley High School and Brother Rice High School.  

The play, written by actor Tim Robbins, is based on the non-fiction book Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., a Roman Catholic nun. The story focuses on her unique relationship with convicted murderer Patrick Sonnier, who was sentenced to death by electrocution. From that experience, Prejean became a leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. 

The part of Sister Helen Prejean will be played by Sarah Rakauskas, a Saint Xavier student and Mother McAuley alumna. Death row inmate Matt Poncelet will be played by Saint Xavier student Kevin LeCompte. Other cast members will include Saint Xavier Provost Dominick J. Hart as Governor Fredericks; Brother Paul Ickes, Brother Rice faculty member, as Chaplain Farley; Mother McAuley faculty member Tess Gump as Prejean’s mother; and Brother Rice alumnus Brian Rigg as Mr. Delacroix.

Prejean will lead a pre-performance conversation on opening night at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 30, in the McAuley Auditorium. Performances begin at 8 p.m. on both Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31. The production is part of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, in which schools around the country produce the play in coordination with their local communities in an inter-disciplinary dialogue about the death penalty. 

“We are deeply honored to have Sister Prejean join us,” said Patricia Haynes, director of the play and chair of the McAuley Theatre Department. “Her presence combined with the extraordinary cast turnout from our three Catholic institutions will make this a very special event.” 

Leading up to the production of the play, Saint Xavier and Mother McAuley will both address the topic of capital punishment in various classes and activities. McAuley students will consider such topics as the origins of the death penalty, the physics and physiology of putting someone to death, and the ethical, religious and pastoral dimensions of those involved in all aspects of capital punishment. Saint Xavier University students will host speakers, pro and con, and may dedicate one of their Sunday evening “open mike” sessions to the topic.

“We want to address this most important issue dialectically – looking at the issues from many perspectives – and from different disciplines,” said Sister Susan Sanders, R.S.M., vice president for University Mission and Heritage at Saint Xavier University, who also helped organize the events. “We will work to provide room for discussion of both sides of this critical debate.”

For more information about the McAuley Theater production, or to order reserved tickets at $8 each, please contact Patricia Haynes at (773) 881-6512. For more information about the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, please visit www.deadmanwalkingplay.org/. 


Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846, Saint Xavier University was the first Mercy college in the United States and is Chicago’s oldest Catholic university. Serving approximately 5,700 students at its campuses in Chicago, Orland Park and at its Loop location, the University offers 35 undergraduate majors; more than 40 graduate program options in arts and sciences, business, education and nursing; and a variety of program options in continuing and professional studies. Recognizing Saint Xavier’s excellence in education, U.S. News & World Report has ranked SXU consistently among the Best Colleges in the Midwest.

Saint Xavier University Media Relations: 773-298-3937