Friday, March 26, 2010

Poughkeepsie Journal on Rachel Corrie play

Play ignites political passions

Edward Meisel • March 25, 2010

Several weeks ago I was driving home from work very early in the morning and listening to the BBC World Service on the radio. The news reporter began discussing a civil action that was being launched against the Israeli defense ministry by the parents of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen who was killed while protesting the bulldozing of Palestinian homes in the Gaza town of Rafah.

What was intended to be a nonviolent protest on the part of Corrie resulted in her death when an armored bulldozer crushed her. A swell of controversy followed the incident — one side believing the driver was effectively given orders to proceed despite the protesters, the other maintaining that Corrie was not visible to the driver and furthermore had no business being on what had been designated a closed military compound.

With the early rays of the daylight breaking over the Hudson River, I found it hard for some reason to take sides. As I drove across the Mid-Hudson Bridge and home to my family, all I could think was — what a sad waste of a life. Did this young woman know she was going to die? Why didn't she scurry out of the way? Was her cause worth the wasted potential of her life unlived? At that moment I felt both sad and angry and very confused. Were her actions heroic or foolish?

Corrie's story seems to affect many people that way.

Actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner combined and edited Corrie's own journals, letters and e-mails to create a one- woman play titled "My Name Is Rachel Corrie." The play was first staged in London in April 2005 and was met with great success. Political fireworks began, however, when the same company attempted to stage a New York production a year later. The production was postponed "indefinitely" with insinuations either implied or inferred that the political content could impede funding of the nonprofit New York Theatre Workshop at which it was to be staged.

It seems Corrie's views, expressed in her own words, are emotional and gripping to some and naive propaganda to others. The play has since appeared in New York as well as venues throughout the world. But it still seems to have a reputation of being booked and then canceled due to controversy — something very unique in our modern and "enlightened" age of theater.

What: "My Name is Rachel Corrie," starring Courtney Day Nassar; sponsored by Dutchess Peace Coalition, Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics and Middle East Crisis Response

When: 8 p.m. March 26

Where: Rockefeller Hall, Room 200, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie

Admission: $10 suggested donation; free for students with ID

Information: Call 845-679-3299

Rachel Corrie play a great success at Vassar

First picture is of Courtney with Sam, the artist who made the great banner.

Second picture is Paul introducing the play to a packed house at Vassar College.

Courtney got a standing ovation for her wonderful performance. She also led an interesting question and answer session at the end of the play. 

The room's capacity was 135, and almost every seat was taken. There were also lots of new faces, with many more community members than students.

(On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, 23, was crushed to death by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" recounts the young woman's life from journal entries, letters, and e-mails she left behind. Courtney Day Nassar has performed this one-woman show at many locations including the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Villanova University and the University of Pittsburgh. "In terms of other productions, having seen the New York production, I can say that Courtney inhabits the role with such passion and conviction it can be almost overwhelming." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) 

One-woman play celebrates life of political activist

One-woman play celebrates life of political activist

By Thea Ballard
Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010
About a month shy of her 24th birthday in March 2003, activist and Evergreen State student Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli Defense Force bulldozer while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes in the Gaza strip. Her controversial death may be what made her famous, but it is her life that is the subject of the one-woman play “My Name is Rachel Corrie.”

Showing this Friday at 8 p.m. in Rockefeller Hall 200, this production of “Rachel Corrie” is a traveling show, featuring actress Courtney Day Nassar. The Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics, a student organization, joined forces with local groups Middle East Crisis Response (MECR) and the Dutchess Peace Coalition to host the play.

The MECR, a group described on its website as “joined in support of human rights for Palestinians and an end to the U.S.’s aggressive policies in the Middle East,” has been working on staging a version of this play for some time. Wrote MECR member Paul Rehm in an emailed statement, “After returning from a visit to Israel/Palestine as members of a delegation from Every Church a Peace Church…my wife and I had the good fortune to see the play during its initial run in London and were deeply moved by it.”

He continued: “Along with other members of Middle East Crisis Response, we’ve been working for the day when people in the Hudson Valley might also be able to see this remarkable one-woman play and through it, to learn about Rachel Corrie,” wrote MECR member Paul Rehm in an e-mailed statement.

Written by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, the play uses Corrie’s own e-mails, letters and journal entries as sources of material. Given the nature of Corrie’s death, there is something inherently political about the play, but it nevertheless focuses more on Corrie as a human character. MECR member Fred Nagel feels that the focus on the apolitical is an important part of the play. “I think that art brings us to a level of understanding that facts on the ground cannot,” wrote Nagel in an e-mailed statement. “This Friday, we will experience the truths as Rachel Corrie saw them. And the play will help us celebrate what is best in the human experience.”

The play has prompted some controversy in its brief history. A cancelled 2006 run of the show at the New York Theater Workshop caused a stir, raising claims of censorship. There have even been some bumps along the way for this particular production. MECR’s initial attempts to find Albany-to-Hudson area theatre companies interested in performing the play were met with discouraging results: “Honest theatre can be hard for some to handle,” said Rehm.

Once the MECR discovered Courtney Day Nassar’s performance, the search for a venue led the group to Vassar, where they got in touch with the Grassroots Alliance.

Peter Satin ’10, of the Grassroots Alliance, recognized the potential for controversy, but didn’t believe that it would present a significant issue. “I do know that there are a lot of Israeli sympathizers on campus,” he said. “But we hosted something in a similar vein about Israeli military conscious objectors earlier this year, and that went really well.”

Addressing the political nature of the play, he continued, “I guess the structure of the show is not so much agenda’d as it is bringing to light human rights abuses in general—it’s not politically charged. Hopefully the student body will see through the politics involved to look at the greater message.”

Rehm has a distinct vision of what this “greater message” entails: “We live in a society that tends to put on a pedestal those among us who pick up a gun, turning to violence to protect or promote the things we believe in,” he wrote. “Rachel’s life embodied the spirit, the ideal, the belief that there is another way and that defending the lives or homes of others non-violently requires just as much courage and may also call for the ultimate sacrifice.”

Satin continued, “That Vassar students might hear—above the din of voices calling for violent answers in conflict situations—one young woman’s voice rising in support of non-violent responses and from her life know something of the strength those responses require, is worth the efforts of all who care about the justice that accompanies real peace.” 
He added, “I hope the student body can approach it with open minds, and I think it’s an important message that regardless of your political stance towards the Middle East, conflict can speak to anyone.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" to be performed at Siena and Vassar

Posted on: Mar 15, 2010
Sponsored by: Palestinian Rights Committee
Date(s): Mar 27, 2010
Time: 08:00 pm
Description: "My Name is Rachel Corrie" to be performed at Siena and Vassar

On the 16th of March, seven years ago, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home in Gaza. Drawing on Rachel's journals, letters and e-mails, Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman created "My Name is Rachel Corrie," a one-woman play that paints a remarkable portrait of this extraordinary young woman.

TimeOut London called the play, "Funny, passionate, bristling with idealism and luminously intelligent."

Courtney Day Nassar, whose performance as Rachel was described by Sean O’Donnel of The New Olde Bank Theatre as "brilliant" and in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as "almost overwhelming," will star in both productions.

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" will be presented on the 27th of March, in the Beaudoin Theatre, Foy Hall at Siena College, 515 Loudon Road, Loudonville and on the 26th of March, in Rockefeller Hall at Vassar College, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie. Both performances begin at 8:00 PM. The Siena performance will be preceded by a panel discussion at 6:45 PM. 

General Admission: $10. Students: free with ID
Tickets available at the door or to reserve tickets at Siena, phone the box office at 518-783-4242. For advance tickets at Vassar, phone 845-679-3299 or 518-966-5366.

The performance at Siena is sponsored by: The Palestinian Rights Committee, Upper Hudson Peace Action, American Jews for a Just Peace and the Creative Arts Department of Siena College.

The performance at Vassar is sponsored by: Middle East Crisis Response, the Dutchess Peace Coalition and the Vassar Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March 9 Protest Against IDF Dinner

We had about 15 from MECR participate in this action. In all, about 400 to 500 protesters circled the Waldorf Astoria block.

This from the Nation Blog:

Tonight, March 9th, The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a non-profit organization that provides support and services to members of Israel's national army, will be holding a gala $1,000 a plate fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.
The keynote speaker, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, IDF Chief of General Staff, was responsible for the prosecution of last year's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza strip, and is someone I consider a war criminal. This link explains why.
At the same time as the dinner tonight, a broad coalition of local groups will stage a mobile protest outside the hotel to highlight the crimes committed by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead as well as Israel's ongoing illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Photos by Laurie.

For many more photos of the event: