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My Name is Rachel Corrie

a One Woman Show
CATEGORY :
by From the writings of Rachel Corrie. Edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 2471

SHOWING : September 07, 2007 - October 07, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

An intimate, piercing one-woman show drawn from the letters and diary entries of Rachel Corrie, who at 23 was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while attempting to protect a Palestinian home. Straight from its controversial and sold-out New York and London runs – Rachel Corrie is an autobiographical portrait of a fierce, intelligent, messy, American idealist coming of age.


CAST & CREW LIST
Costume Designer Elizabeth Rasmusson
Rachel Corrie Courtney Patterson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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More Than a Shrug
by Dedalus
Friday, September 14, 2007
5.0
On March 16, 2003, American college student Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while staging a peaceful sit-in to protect a Palestinian home. She was 23 years old.

When I first heard of the incident, I remember giving a little shrug, and thinking, “What did she expect?” As a “Grandstand Fool-osopher,” I was more intrigued by how ideologues of every political stripe were using her as a symbol – she was called a “saint” by the Palestinian extremists who were looking for an American martyr who couldn’t be shrugged off. She was called a traitor and an anti-Semite by right-wing bloggers who thought anyone showing any sympathy for Palestinians wasn’t worth a shrug (many even expressed joy at her death). Even those who were sympathetic shrugged her off as a naïve idealist who let herself be used by evil people.

What I never heard was anything about Rachel herself.

Two years after her death, actor Alan Rickman was given permission by Rachel’s family to collect her journals into a dramatic theatre piece. The result is “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” now on stage with Courtney Patterson as Rachel, opening the 10th-Anniversary season of Synchronicity Performance Group at 7 Stages Back Stage Black Box.

Folks, this is as good as it gets. What we have here is an actress at the peak of her abilities in a monologue that is concerned not with any political axe to grind, but with letting us inside a woman we all know of, but never really knew. Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner have edited Rachel’s words into a concise, funny, and powerful piece that shows us a young woman’s driving idealism without flinching at her shortcomings. This is one of the most moving portraits you’re likely to see this (or any) year.

Opening in a messy college room, the play leads us through Rachel’s eccentricities and obsessions. The set is soon transformed into a blighted Middle-Eastern ruin, her writing soon becomes more poetic, more passionate, and ultimately, more compelling. By showing us Rachel as a slightly selfish and extremely idealistic student, we see the forces that lead her to her fate, the character strengths and weaknesses that make her such a compelling and unforgettable character. And Ms. Patterson hits every note square on – we see her unbridled joy during a free-spirited splash in a stream, we feel her exasperation at her ex-boyfriend (“Why do we fall in love with someone who is always leaving us?”) and his “hootchie-ass” new girlfriend, and we share her love for her parents and her friends and all the surrogate families she finds in Rafah. We also share her disillusionment at what she sees as the cruelties of the Israeli army, and her ruminations about life and death and politics. Ms. Patterson commands the stage alone for an uninterrupted 100 minutes, often coming into the audience to share a secret or an observation she finds particularly curious.

Director Rachel May cleverly uses the Back Stage space to make a more intimate playing area. We feel like confidants, like friends Rachel Corrie has let into her life. And we feel privileged to be part of her life.

The ending, which I’ll try not to spoil for you here, is a dramatic shot to the gut that drives home who this woman was, what drove her to face down an army bulldozer, and why all of us who just shrugged her off are just plain wrong. It’s probably the most powerful ending you’re likely to see.

In her journal, Rachel describes “the unbearable lightness of being” as being just a shrug:

    “It’s just a shrug – the difference between Hitler and my mother, the difference between Whitney Houston and a Russian mother watching her son fall through the sidewalk and boil to death. And with that enormous shrug there, the shrug between being and not being – how could I be a poet? How could I believe in a truth?

    And I knew back then, that the shrug would happen at the end of my life -- I knew. And I thought, so who cares? Now, I know who cares. And I know it’s me. That’s my job.”

So, go ahead. Shrug off Rachel Corrie as a saint or a traitor or a naïve idealist. That’s your privilege as an adult with opinions. You can even shrug and say, “Well anyone’s life would seem compelling if it’s edited by a journalist and an actor.” But before shrugging, ask yourself – When I was 23, what did I believe? What did I do about it? For what (or for whom) would I gladly lay down my life? I was 23 two years before Rachel Corrie was born. And I have yet to match her passion and her heart and her raw humanity. I cannot shrug that off.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

Afternote: After I posted this on the Theatre Buzz site, I had sent to me a link to an unsigned negative editorial posted on the Online Atlanta Jewish Times (http://jtonline.us/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=3548&SectionID=34&SubSectionID=&S=1).

Of course, I felt a need to rebut in public:

First, I find it highly ironic that the editorial writer bemoans tax dollars supporting the production ("It's frustrating that our tax dollars are helping bring Rachel Corrie to town – Synchronicity receives funding from the state and from Fulton County"). One of Rachel's original motivations was to see the actions our tax dollars were funding, wanting to see first hand the effects of "our tax dollars at work." Wouldn't it be nice if we could "earmark" our taxes to only those programs we agree with or directly benefit from?

Next, the writer complains that, because the play presents only Rachel's words, it isn't a balanced picture of the conflict. Well, if the purpose of the play were to dramatize the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, that would be a legitimate criticism. But the play was designed to give a dramatic portrait of a woman and what led her to her fate, using her own words. Criticizing it for being unbalanced is a little like criticizing "The Diary of Anne Frank" for not including the German point-of-view.

Next, the writer dismisses everyone involved here -- Rachel Corrie, Alan Rickman, Katherine Viner, the ISM -- as being "pro-Palestinian" or "anti-Israel" (as if the two were synonymous), falling into the "if-my-enemy-says-it-it-must-be-false" logical fallacy. This is an ideological tactic that is used by lazy thinkers of all political stripes -- if I can dismiss the person I'm debating, I don't have to listen to what they're saying. If you get nothing from "My Name is Rachel Corrie," you get the reality that she was not "pro-Palestinian" or even "anti-Israel" -- she was anti-injustice. She makes clear that Hamas and the suicide bombers are as much a threat to the Palestinian families she was trying to help as they are to Israel. Also, the writer's dismissal of all eyewitness testimony of Rachel's death ("everyone had an agenda") betrays what I find to be a depressing condemnation of human nature -- the implication that no one is honest one's "agenda" is involved.

Finally, the editorial writer criticizes Synchronicity for putting the play on during the "Holiest period of the Jewish year," precluding any "real Jew" from participating in the talkbacks and discussions. I am singularly unqualified to debate this point, but I would like to hear other opinions. I would think that the introspection required of Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur would be an ideal time to contemplate Rachel Corrie's life and the Government Policies that led to her death. If the writer is afraid that Israel would come off as "villains" if we see their actions from Rachel's point-of-view, isn't that a tacit admission that their actions were, indeed, "villainous?" We can only wait to see what sort of participation this production receives from the Jewish community.

This writer epitomizes what I discuss in my own column -- the quick judgments and easy demonizing inherent in the "shrugging off" of Rachel's life and death. The writer admits she (or he) never saw or read the play, yet still feels qualified to dismiss it as "unchallenged musings." Yes, Rachel Corrie's journal may be "unchallenged" -- it was, after all, not written to be read or performed by others. It is certainly naive, certainly downplays much of the violence committed against Israel, and ignores the incompetence and Unrealistic goals of the Palestinian leaders. But Rachel's point-of-view and sympathies were with the families who hosted her and cared for her. If the writer doesn't want to take the time or make the effort to really understand why Rachel Corrie acted as she did, let me challenge him (or her) to answer one key question -- has the Bulldozing of the Palestinian homes in any way made Israel safer or more secure? If they uncovered such a low percentage of "terrorist tunnels," why would such an ineffective tactic continue? And, to echo my review of the play, what did you do at age 23 to make the world a better place?

Shalom!

Brad [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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