Published March 31, 2006
LONDON – A play about an American peace activist killed in the Gaza Strip has opened in London — 3,000 miles from its previously planned off-Broadway home.
First produced last year at London's subsidized Royal Court Theatre, the play had been due to open this month at New York Theatre Workshop, one of the city's leading off-Broadway spaces. But the production was suspended indefinitely in February.
The show's director, British actor Alan Rickman, said the theater had canceled the run, and accused it of "censorship born out of fear." But in a March 14 statement posted on the company's Web site, Theatre Workshop artistic director James C. Nicola said the company had sought only more time to "find ways to let Rachel's words rise above the polemics."
"We regret that requesting more time to achieve that goal was interpreted as failing to fulfill a commitment and, worse, as censorship," he said.
The Playhouse stepped in to stage the story of Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop the destruction of a Palestinian home in the southern Gaza town of Rafah in March 2003. Corrie, 23, had traveled to the Middle East with the International Solidarity Movement, an activist group that tries to stop Israeli military operations in the Palestinian territories. An Israeli investigation ruled the death accidental.
Since her death, Corrie has become a divisive figure in the United States, with supporters hailing her bravery and commitment and opponents condemning her as foolish and naive.
"My Name Is Rachel Corrie" sets out to create a more rounded picture. Writer Katherine Viner — features editor of The Guardian newspaper in London — and writer-director Rickman, weave together sections of diaries, letters and e-mails from Corrie's time in Gaza, along with childhood journals, to create a picture of a passionate but imperfect idealist.
The show is bound to provoke strong reactions. Some will disagree with Corrie's analysis of what she calls "people who are impacted by U.S. foreign policy." But her descriptions of the suffering of the Palestinians she met are powerful. In Dodds' performance, Corrie emerges as passionate and articulate but flawed, fired by the idealism — and the self-righteousness — of youth.
"We've tried to show she is neither a saint nor a traitor," Viner said. "She is just an ordinary young woman.
"Everyone who sees the play realizes you don't have to agree with her to find it a moving experience. I think it's important to see beyond the politics of it. It is a political play, but that's not all it is. Rachel was a political woman, but that's not all she was."
Viner said she still hoped that "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" would be produced this year in New York — though not at New York Theatre Workshop. The Seattle Repertory Theatre announced earlier this week it would present the play March 15-April 22, 2007.