The Playgoer: "the best theater experience we had the whole week"

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

"the best theater experience we had the whole week"

Another letter to the NY Times, in Sunday's paper.

To the Editor:
Re "Theater Addresses Tension Over Play" (Arts pages, March 16):

Last fall, my wife and I spent a week in London seeing plays. We, fortunately, stumbled upon "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" at the Royal Court Theater. It was the best theater experience we had the whole week.

We still can't stop talking about the play. It was a beautifully crafted, touching story of this remarkable young woman. If any not-for-profit theater balks at
presenting this piece because its directors think it's too controversial, they should close up shop. This is exactly the kind of theater New Yorkers should see and talk about.

James Walsh

New York, March 16, 2006


The issue whether My Name is Rachel Corrie is a "good" or "bad" play is irrelevant, I continue to argue. If it were actually given a hearing in NYC, no doubt some would love it, some hate it, most in between--as per usual.

But such testimonials only ratchet up the "huh???" factor when confronting the decision by New York Theatre Workshop. In other words--doesn't sound like "controversial" political theatre, does it?

Unless the fact it is so likeable is what makes it potentially explosive?

(Why do I have a feeling the NYTW board would be more at ease with a Palestinian-themed show featuring a turbaned and bearded dark-skin man screaming at the audience. At least it would be easier to brush aside as "oh, political theatre.")

4 comments:

Elisheva said...

The issue at hand is that the plays like this one are funded by left-wing, anti-Israel, anti-Judaism organizations, such as Ford Foundation. They are not meant as entertainment, but are instead are meant as entertaining political propaganda.
Why pay money to be subjected to inane propaganda? Do folks want to be brainwashed into thinkng that Ms. Corrie died a glorious death? On the contrary, she was foolish, and was used by those who now trot her out for a dog and pony show.
My goodness, why on earth would anyone go to this sort of thing??

Philip Munger said...

Playgoer,

I doubt elisheva saw the play in London.

James Walsh's opinion of the play was echoed by people I know who saw it in London. Viner and Rickman create a strong character out of written material left behind after her death. Most of the play deals with a young woman growing up. Then she goes to Palestine and gets killed. The strength and humor of her comments on the world around her as she grows up lend strength to her voice when she continues her commentary in a situation which is clearly upsetting to her.

The play is likeable, as you propose, and I suppose that seems dangerous to some. But, even more important, Corrie is very likeable. You leave, wishing she'd been able to turn into the important writer she was so close to becoming.

Anonymous said...

I have a difficult time understanding why someone like elishiva considers Rachel Corrie's decisions to be foolish and, therefore, thinks it is appropriate to keep Ms. Corrie's voice silenced. The point of making a play from her writings is to communicate the human condition, points of which we share and decisions that we may disagree. To not examine her life would be a misfortune and a crime.

anne said...

As promised in the Endgame thread, here are some quotes from Rachel Corrie. Apologies to the copyright holders, and Playgoer, do delete this if you want, I don't want to violate anyone's copyright, but I just felt that at this point in time with so much disinformation being spread about this charming, thought-provoking play, and with copies being nearly unobtainable in the US that a few quotes wouldn't come amiss.

I chose these quotes for various reasons: they made me laugh, they seemed to me to be particularly representative of the play, they seemed particularly appropriate to the discussions we've been having. And I tried to pick quotes I don't recall seeing up elsewhere, so as to broaden the basis for discussion. Obviously this is just a small selection, chosen on the spur of the moment this morning, reading the whole play is a much more rewarding experience, and though it's not in print in the US yet, http://www.amazon.co.uk will sell you a copy, and the postage isn't that expensive. I've got the UK edition so the page numbers I give correspond to that.

The play was edited from Rachel's journals & emails and follows her development as a person and as a writer:


Rachel Age 12, p. 5:

"When I was 5 I discovered boys, which made my life a little more difficult. Just a little, and a lot more interesting."

"In second grade there were classroom rules hanging from the ceiling.The only one I can remember now seems like it would be a good rule for life. 'Everyone must feel safe.' Safe to be themselves, physically safe, safe to say what they think, just safe. That's the best rule I can think of."

Rachel, p. 15:

"Incidentally, at this point, the neo-liberal jabs are pretty close to the mark. At one lecture our guest speaker was, I think, a physicist. But his side occupation is dream-work. 'Hi, my name is Dr Jenson, I'm a Harvard grad with a PhD in Political Economy, but on the side I analyze the paintings of my pet donkey, Aphrodite.' I like my class. The reading is very interesting. The schedule is completely indecipherable. And the teachers wrap themselves in paper, sing in German, and yell insults at us to help us get a grasp on Dadaism."

Rachel in Jerusalem, pp 21-22:

"The scariest thing for non-Jewish Americans in talking about Palestinian self-determination is the fear of being or sounding anti-Semitic. The people of Israel are suffering and Jewish people have a long history of oppression. We still have some responsibility for that, but I think it's important to draw a firm distinction between the policies of Israel as a state, and Jewish people. That's kind of a no-brainer, but there is very strong pressure to conflate the two. I try to ask myself, whose interest does it serve to identify Israeli policy with all Jewish people?"

Rachel in Palestine, p. 35:

"Then I walked some way to Brazil Block, which is where the big family live, the one that has wholeheartedly adopted me. The other day, the grandmother gave me a lecture that involved a lot of blowing and pointing to her black shawl. I got Nidal to tell her that my mother would appreciate knowing that someone here was giving me a hard time about smoking turning my lungs black. I am amazed at their strength in defending such a large degree of their humanity against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death. I think the word is dignity."

Rachel, p. 45:

"I think my soul is nomadic. I've always turned my head a little to listen out of one ear to the people speaking Spanish on the bus. I've always stared upwards at airplanes cutting white paths through the sky and wondered wher they are going. I've always been jealous of migratory birds. In a year or two, or maybe next winter, i'll go to South America. I will
smile across the water at the Olympics. When I leave, I'll ride up over the rises and dips of that road that I've been riding over all my life, through the cedars and past the barn. I'll lean out the window when I pass my old high school and scream, 'Ha Ha Ha! Fuck You! Fuck You!' just for old times' sake. I'll get on Highway 101 and when it reaches I-5, I'll either go north towards the airport or south towards Mexico. When I leave, I'll leave laughing. I'll come back to see my mother and my college friends and to swim naked in Puget Sound at night. And I won't be afraid to come back, like I've always been afraid before. I'll cry, but I'll be smiling, and I'll hug my mom."

I did check this over for errors in transcription, but only briefly and I have to get on with other things now, I do hope I didn't leave in any typos!