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The Justice Theater Project to Win National Award for Advocacy

PeopleofFaithThe Justice Theater Project will be honored by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty (PFADP) at the group’s 15th anniversary awards banquet in Greensboro on November 7.

PFADP will present The Justice Theater Project (JTP) with its Community Service Award, which recognizes outstanding efforts at educating and mobilizing people to act for  alternatives to the death penalty. Deb Royals Mizerk, the organization’s artistic director, will accept the award. The award will be presented by Father David McBriar, OFM, Associate Pastor of The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, NC and a current advisory board member of JTP.

“The Justice Theater Project offers a national model for using art to engage one’s community on issues of social justice,” said Stephen Dear, executive director of PFADP. “The company’s creative and provocative productions on the death penalty have led and challenged thousands to look at the death penalty in a new light.  JTP is helping to change our culture away from an ethic of retributive justice and towards restorative justice.”

justice-theater-projectThe Justice Theater Project is a nonprofit advocacy and activist theater group. Its mission is “to use the dramatic arts as a way to call to the fore of public attention the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.”  JTP strives to create a dialogue that encourages patrons to explore both sides of an issue of social justice relevance.  JTP has produced three plays on the death penalty including “Dead Man Walking,” “A Lesson Before Dying,” and two productions of “Still… Life,” an original drama written by the Justice Theater Project based on three years of interviews with people living on North Carolina’s death row.  Each show incorporated discussions hosted by area experts in the field including Alan Gell, after his release from Death Row, and Mark Kleinschmidt of The Fair Trial Initiative.

In 2004, JTP staged an additional performance of its production of “A Lesson Before Dying” before 400 school children and community members in Duplin County. While walking out of the theater after watching the production, a sheriff’s deputy stopped and silently signed a petition calling for a halt to executions in North Carolina.

“Still…Life” traveled to nine locations throughout the Triangle, with each performance accompanied by a photo presentation by Scott Langley of Amnesty International. A question and answer session between the audience, Mr. Langley and the cast of “Still…Life” followed.

“Dead Man Walking” incorporated an educational/experiential guide with a student performance and pre-show educational seminar for Cardinal Gibbons High School senior Theology students.  Sister Maureen Fenlon of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project held a question and answer session for the cast after visiting Raleigh and viewing a  performance.  Sister Maureen discussed the relevance of the piece during our current national death penalty debate, and applauded the cast and artistic staff for what she felt was one of the best adaptations of the play in the nation.  Later that year, the cast met with Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking”, and discussed how being a part of the play affected them as artists and activists.

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty will hold its 15th anniversary awards banquet at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro on November 7. Also honored at the event will be long-time PFADP leader Brian Goldberg of Greensboro, and New Creation Presbyterian Church located in Greensboro. Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton will be the keynote speakers. They are authors of the New York Times bestseller Picking Cotton, which tells the story of Thompson-Cannino misidentifying Cotton as the man who raped her when she was a student at Elon University. Cotton spent 11 years in prison before being exonerated.

PFADP is a nonprofit organization based in Carrboro, NC. PFADP’s mission is to educate and mobilize faith communities to act to abolish the death penalty in the United States. Since 1994, PFADP has organized hundreds of public events on the death penalty and mobilized tens of thousands to take action on the issue. Next year in Atlanta, PFADP will hold the first national conference on religious organizing against the death penalty this century.

PFADP’s banquet will be held at Temple Emanuel, located at 1129 Jefferson Rd. in Greensboro.

Tickets for the banquet are available at www.pfadp.org or by calling (919) 933-7567.

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