Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Lights, Camera, Action! “Dead Man Walking” Comes to Sing Sing

When a new production of “Dead Man Walking,” the opera based on the 1993 memoir of Louisiana death penalty abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean, opened at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in September 2023, there was a rare offsite performance—at the state’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, with lead singers from the Met’s production backed by a chorus of prisoners.

Their costumes were just prison-­issued green pants. There were no props. The 150 prisoners in the audience had to be screened and counted before filing into the auditorium to arrange themselves according to cell block and building number.

Onstage, the 14-­member chorus represented about half of the 30 prisoners in the Met’s “Musical Connection” program, which has been teaching performance, composition and music theory to prisoners for 15 years. The others in the program declined to participate, wary of the opera’s dramatic portrayal of a condemned prisoner’s execution by lethal injection.

But for chorus member Michael Shane Hale, 51, who is serving 50 years to life for murder, the experience was positive. “We feel so powerless; we feel so invisible,” he said, adding that the performance “reminds you not to get lost in prison.”  


Sources: New York Times, Vogue

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login