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Phillips students on stage in Dead Man Walking


Members of the Phillips Elementary School Chorus will be participating in Dead Man Walking with the Pittsburgh Opera.

The Pittsburgh Opera developed a partnership with Phillips Elementary School and the Brashear Association in the fall of 2002. Families of Phillips students had an opportunity to attend several operas that fall and the spring of 2003 and 2004.

Prior to attending the opera, members of the Pittsburgh Opera met with the families to discuss the elements of the opera and provide insight into the particular opera that they were going to attend. In addition, the families were given a back stage tour of the Benedum Theater.

When children were needed to perform in Dead Man Walking, Marilyn Egan, director of education for the Pittsburgh Opera, thought about the students at Phillips. The students began working at Phillips with Payne, the music teacher, Dr. Egan and Dr. Lawson, Pittsburgh Opera assistant conductor and chorus master. After several work sessions at the school, the students began rehearsing at the Benedum Theater rehearsal rooms with Leonard Foglia, the stage director.

Phillips students performing in Dead Man Walking include: Stacy Kamumbu, Alesha and Angelique Williams, Tayaunna Jackson, Shanda Snyder, Alaura Williams, Delana and Tyler Jerry, Angelea Taylor, Victor Kivuva, Winnie Mutunga, Alexis Payne, Taylor James and Tamia Johnson.

Dead Man Walking is based on the prize-winning 1993 book by Sister Helen Prejean and tells the story of her experience as spiritual advisor to a death-row inmate in Louisiana; a convicted murderer who she accompanies to execution. The book was made into a movie in 1995 with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, directed by Tim Robbins. In 1998, the San Francisco Opera commissioned Jake Heggie and acclaimed Broadway playwright Terrance McNally to create an opera based on the story.

Dead Man Walking will be performed at the Benedum Theater on Saturday, June 5 and Friday, June 11 at 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 8 at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, June 13 at 2 p.m.. Those planning to attend, should remember 15 of the children who are singing at the beginning of Act One and at the end of Act One are students of Phillips Elementary School


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