Sister Helen Prejean On Complexity Of Humanity, Death Penalty In Atlanta Opera 'Dead Man Walking'

Jan 31, 2019

For decades, Sister Helen Prejean has been a prominent opponent of the death penalty. She started her prison ministry in the 1980s, serving as a spiritual advisor to those on death row. She chronicled her experiences in the 1993 book, "Dead Man Walking." It was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie, a play and an opera.

The Atlanta Opera performs "Dead Man Walking" starting Feb. 2. It tells the story of Prejean and her relationship with death row inmate Joseph De Rocher. Prejean stopped by "On Second Thought" to discuss her ministry, the opera and the power of radical empathy.

"You see, there's more to people than that worst terrible act of their life," said Prejean of her experiences as a spiritual advisor to those in prison. "Human beings are very complex."

GPB's Sarah Zaslaw also spoke to Tomer Zvulun, the Atlanta Opera's artistic director, and Georgia native Jamie Barton, who plays Sister Helen in the production. We also heard GPB reporter Grant Blankenship's story of classical musicians helping patients heal through music in an ICU in Macon.

The Atlanta Opera's production of "Dead Man Walking" runs Saturday, Feb. 2 through Sunday, Feb. 10.

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