Play about slain pro-Pales­tine ac­tivist Cor­rie re­turns to the New York stage

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE - BY JEN­NIE MATTHEW

A play about Amer­i­can ac­tivist Rachel Cor­rie, who was crushed to death by an Is­raeli bull­dozer in Gaza, is win­ning quiet ac­cep­tance in New York, where up­roar post­poned its de­but a decade ago.

Her par­ents and the play’s direc­tor say the dim­ming con­tro­versy re­flects a shift in Amer­i­can at­ti­tudes to­wards Is­rael and the Pales­tinian con­flict.

“I think the land­scape re­ally has changed,” Rachel’s mother Cindy Cor­rie told AFP of the 12 years since her daugh­ter was killed in 2003. Wit­nesses said she died try­ing to stop a Pales­tinian home from be­ing de­mol­ished.

In Fe­bru­ary, the Is­raeli Supreme Court ruled that the state was not li­able for Cor­rie’s death be­cause it was a mil­i­tary act com­mit­ted in a war zone.

Cindy be­lieves Rachel’s story has helped shift that un­der­stand­ing, in ad­di­tion to Is­rael’s wars and mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the re­gion over the last decade.

“Just the num­bers of peo­ple who are will­ing to move away from what I think has tra­di­tion­ally been al­most un­ques­tion­able sup­port for Is­rael,” she said.

The award-win­ning “My Name is Rachel Cor­rie” is a 90-minute, one-woman play based on the late 23-year-old’s writ­ings, edited by Bri­tish ac­tor Alan Rick­man and Guardian edi­tor elect Katharine Viner.

It made its de­but in Lon­don in 2005 to rave re­views, but a de­ci­sion in 2006 to post­pone the play in New York prompted charges of cen­sor­ship from its Bri­tish cre­ators.

‘May be the world has changed’

The New York Theater Work­shop even­tu­ally put on the pro­duc­tion but at­trib­uted the de­lay to con­cerns that peo­ple would use the play as a plat­form to pro­mote their agen­das.

Bring­ing the play back to New York has not sparked se­ri­ous protest.

The direc­tor, Jonathan Kane, and the founder of the group putting on the play told AFP they had re­ceived tele­phone com­plaints, but that sales had been bet­ter than ex­pected.

“The press in gen­eral has not jumped at it which has been sur­pris­ing,” Kane said. “Maybe the world has changed in 10 years and peo­ple are much more un­der­stand­ing and it’s not as con­tro­ver­sial.”

On open­ing night a lone pro­tester stood across the street from the theater al­ter­nat­ing be­tween un­furl­ing and rolling up a ban­ner pro­claim­ing “Rachel Cor­rie was a neo Nazi and a ter­ror­ist lover.”

In­side the Lynn Red­grave Theater, actress Char­lotte Hem­mings brought Cor­rie to life to warm ap­plause from a well-at­tended, if not sold-out au­di­ence.

The play is based on Cor­rie’s emails, jour­nals and let­ters. The fo­cus is on her life. Nei­ther an­tiSemitic nor overtly po­lit­i­cal, it por­trays an ar­tic­u­late, Sal­vador Dali-lov­ing ide­al­ist from Olympia, Wash­ing­ton.

In the last 10 years, it has been trans­lated into more than a dozen lan­guages and per­formed in more than 20 coun­tries, the Cor­ries say.

‘Not overly biased’

“Once peo­ple start to come to see the play it an­swers its crit­ics,” Rachel’s fa­ther Craig told AFP.

Al­lan Buchman, the founder of Cul­ture Project, de­fended the April 2-12 run.

“The peo­ple I’ve spo­ken to af­ter ex­plain­ing our po­si­tion, they’ve kind of be­grudg­ingly ac­cepted that we’re do­ing things with­out an ul­te­rior mo­tive and that we’re re­spon­si­ble in a way that is not overly biased,” he said.

“I’m not happy with the in­hu­man­ity on ei­ther side,” he told AFP.

“If we can draw at­ten­tion to the fact that vi­o­lence and ha­tred that is be­ing fos­tered in that re­gion re­sults in tragic loss of life, then I think we’re mak­ing a state­ment that has some value.”

Last year, pro­test­ers at the Metropoli­tan Opera dis­rupted open­ing night of “The Death of Klinghof­fer” about the Pales­tinian hi­jack­ing of an Ital­ian cruise liner that ended with the mur­der of a wheelchair­bound New York Jew.

Buchman be­lieves the pres­tige, wealth and size of the Met made it a more at­trac­tive tar­get for proIs­rael groups.

“I don’t know that they care as much about our 10 per­for­mances for a max­i­mum of 200 peo­ple per per­for­mance,” he said.

Rachel would have turned 36 this Fri­day, when her par­ents have de­cided to watch the New York pro­duc­tion.

“I think she would be amazed and laugh­ing ... to think that some­thing she wrote is play­ing in New York,” said Craig.

“It’s amaz­ing to me. so I think I’d cel­e­brate that a lit­tle bit on her birth­day.”

AFP

In a photo re­leased by Kirsten Shultz Photography on Wed­nes­day, April 8, actress Char­lotte Hem­mings, play­ing Rachel Cor­rie, poses for a photo in Belle­vue, Idaho.

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