Since 1993, Sister Helen Prejean and her memoir, Dead Man Walking, have been covered by major newspapers, periodicals, and television and radio networks, both nationally and internationally. Now that her story has been told in print, on screen and stage, and in opera houses, Sister Prejean looks back on her Dead Man Walking experience in her upcoming book, River of Fire: A Spiritual Journey to Death Row. On Tuesday, November 2, Sister Prejean will discuss her personal awakening to the cause that became the source of her international standing today—fighting the death penalty—and her devotion to providing counseling to the families of victims of violence. On November 10, Marsha Recknagel, herself a memoirist, will offer her interpretation of autobiographical literature from the perspective of a writer describing and interpreting an event. On November 16, Dennis Huston—using excerpts from Tim Robbins’ 1996 award-winning film, Dead Man Walking—will talk about how the camera and the settings make us feel the terrible immediacy of Death Row—from multiple points of view.
In January 2011, Jake Heggie, the composer, will speak about the creative process behind his operatic version of Dead Man Walking. After his talk, we will observe an orchestral staging rehearsal of the opera presented by the Houston Grand Opera.
Sister Helen Prejean is a Roman Catholic nun of the Congregation of St. Joseph, a leading activist for the abolition of the death penalty, and the founder of Survive, an organization devoted to providing counseling to the families of victims of violence. Her memoir, Dead Man Walking, was nominated for the1993 Pulitzer Prize. In 1998, she was awarded the Pacem Terris Award and is the recipient of numerous other honors and awards.
Marsha Recknagel received her Ph.D. from Rice University, where she has taught creative writing since 1992 and was named writer-in-residence in 2002. In 1988, Dr. Recknagel was the second layperson to be admitted to the Houston-Galveston Psychoanalytic Institute, where she studied psychoanalysis for two years. She is author of the 2001 memoir, If Nights Could Talk, and has been involved with death penalty issues since mentoring a former death row inmate, Kerry Max Cook, while he wrote his 2007 memoir, Chasing Justice.
J. Dennis Huston is a professor of English at Rice University, where he has taught since 1969. He has won a number of George R. Brown teaching awards, the Nicholas Salgo Teaching Prize, and the 1990 Professor of the Year award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation. Dr. Huston has taught humanities, drama, public speaking, and Shakespeare on film and is the author of Shakespeare’s Comedies of Play.