The playwright said the available information on Claude Newman is sometimes contradictory. Fr. O'Leary recorded a tape about his experience with Newman about 20 years after the inmate's execution, though Gallagher said he had given his own copy of the tape to someone else.
Marcia Stein, archivist at the Robert M. Myers Archives of the Society of the Divine Word's Chicago province, said Newman's story was "controversial" at the time.
The play on Newman's life is being produced by the G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company, a Catholic non-profit Gallagher and others founded three years ago.
Gallagher said Catholics "have to put out our own entertainment."
"A Hollywood producer once said that entertainment has more influence on young people than parents do. I think that if as Catholics we allow the culture, the Hollywood culture especially, to dictate what entertainment we are going to get, we are going to lose an entire generation," he said.
"That's one reason that we decided to establish the theater company."
The company does not have its own space. It rents out theaters rather than use church halls.
"That way, the secular society comes to us," Gallagher said. "If we want to engage the culture, we have to go out to them."
The company is "lucky to break even" and lacks major benefactors, the playwright said.
"We'll keep going as long as we can."
The company has staged four other productions of plays with Catholic themes, including a play about the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge's encounter with Mother Teresa, a play about the Mexican martyr Bl. Miguel Pro, and a play about Franz Jagerstatter, a conscientious objector in Austria who refused to fight in World War II.
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Gallagher's son Peter heads the G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company. He said the company is considering extending its performances of "Claude Newman: A Miracle on Death Row" through Oct. 28.
The theater company's website is www.gkctheatre.org.