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

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