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Life Without Parole

Life Without Parole

By Warren Doody

Directed by Susan K. Berkompas

October 21 through November 5, 2016

Performances Every Friday & Saturday at 8pm




Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard entered the gates of the California Institution for Women at Chino to interview forty-two women who were serving long-term sentences for killing their abusive partners. Ten years later, Warren Doody transformed this original research into the stage play, Life Without Parole, which tells the story of Helen Broker as she faces a Parole Board Hearing for the first time, and takes the audience on a journey through the tragic underworld of domestic violence with a look into the lives of some of its survivors.  |  Suitable for mature audiences







Susan K. Berkompas, Artistic Producing Director

Susan K. Berkompas is a Professor of Theatre Arts and the Department Chair for the last seventeen years at Vanguard University.  She is the Founder of American Coast Theater Company, based in Orange County, and she received her M.F.A. in acting/directing from the California Repertory Company.  She also studied Shakespeare with Sir John Barton in Oxford at the British American Drama Academy.  She is an associate member of Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers as well as a member of SAG/AFTRA, and she is an alumnus of the Kennedy Center Directors Lab West.  Susan is the recipient of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival “Excellence in Theatre Education” and “The Gold Medallion” Awards.  She has produced and/or directed three shows that have been invited to KCACTF, including Life Without Parole in 2008.  Susan has produced, directed and acted in more than a hundred plays.  Her passion is to produce and direct original plays that tell life changing stories which can move, motivate and enlighten humanity.


Warren Doody, Playwright of Life Without Parole

Warren Doody is a Professor of English and resident playwright at Vanguard University, where he has taught for the last sixteen years.  The writer of numerous plays, screenplays, and short stories, he has won multiple awards for his work.  His most recent work includes the West Coast premieres of Enlightenment.com at American Coast Theatre Company and Development at Vanguard University. His play Life Without Parole was a finalist for the 2009 Kennedy Center American College Regional Theatre Festival, and it has received productions in Canada and the United States, and most recently in New York at Manhattan Repertory Theater. In August 2014, Life Without Parole was one of only 200 plays out of thousands invited to the New York International Fringe Festival where it garnered rave reviews.



In May 2001, Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard approached me about the possibility of turning her research on battered women who kill into a stage play. It took me a year to do the requisite research and an additional six months to write the play itself. In doing so, I changed the names of the women involved, created characters who are composites, and recontextualized the dialogue and research to fit the parameters of the stage. In March 2003, “Life Without Parole” was staged for the first time as part of Vanguard University’s Domestic Violence Awareness Seminar. Since then, it has been staged all over the country and in Canada; at battered women’s shelters, at conferences, in numerous theatres, and, most importantly, three times at the California Institution for Women at Chino, in front of the very women whose words inspired its creation. The play has also been profiled on NPR, selected as a finalist for the 2009 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and included in the recent documentary, “Thespians,” produced by Tiger Lily Media. My adaptation of the play received the Gold Medal Award at Worldfest-Houston Film Festival in 2005. The play continues to build momentum, but, ultimately, it has stayed true to my original three-fold goal: to give voice to the “Convicted Survivors” that Dr. Leonard represents in her work; to give voice to those women who do not live through the last violent assault; and to provide a red flag for those currently faced with the silent epidemic of domestic abuse.