The Playgoer: Alternate "Corries"

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Alternate "Corries"

Theatre artists continue to make their own performance pieces out of Rachel Corrie's journals. With productions like this--to be performed in Provincetown this summer--the "authorized" My Name is Rachel Corrie risks becoming a little less special in this country each day.

What's filling the void left by the New York Theatre Workshop's cancellation of the play back in February/March is the considerable activist movement--involving a lot of young people--around the cause of Palestinian rights. They are creating their own plays and events around this controversial figure. Is this perhaps a more authentic political theatre than a slickly crafted professional play from the West End conceived and directed by a movie star?

Even as an opponent of NYTW's decision, though, I must admit I was taken aback to read one account of the controversy in a story about the protests against Caterpillar bulldozers, who made the vehicle that killed Corrie. From the Inter Press Service News:

Recently, a play about Rachel Corrie's life that had two successful runs in London was banned from the New York Theatre Workshop after protests from some Jewish groups. Copies of the play, composed of letters and journal entries, and titled "My Name is Rachel Corrie", were taken off bookshelves and only a few are now available in the United States, the campaigners say.

Sloppy reporting is sloppy reporting, and IPS must have a pretty tunnel-vision approach not to do some independent sourcing on this. (Maybe someone out there has a better idea of who/what IPS is?) There were no ADL-sponsored "protests" in the streets, and certainly no book burning. In fact, I hear TCG Press will be releasing the first US edition soon. Even I, who did not hesitate to call this censorship, did not call it a "ban." ... But it is noteworthy that this is the legend about the episode already spreading in the activist community. And, inaccurate as it is, it is not good for New York downtown theatre for this rumor to be out there. One of the many lethal consequences (even if unintended) of restricting and over-controlling free speech in the first place.


freespeechlover said...

The article was not about My Name is Rachel Corrie but the protests at the Caterpillar meeting of its shareholders. You're right, it's sloppy reporting AND fairly or not, it's bad for NY city. And you're right that with or without sloppy reporting the entire fiasco is bad for NY city. The entire event made the world of NY theater look like it was more interested in "civility" than freedom of speech. And that's a shame for New York, but then isn't it up to New Yorkers to make sure the play is put on in NY city?

Has any group written other theaters to express interest in seeing the play put on?

PeonInChief said...

Fortunately for NYC, I think MNiRC will soon be just a vague memory, which people will occasionally mention in retrospectives discussing the actors in the Harry Potter movies. (Alan Rickman, who played Snape, also wrote...) And bad though the MN controversy was, it pales in comparison to the many other embarrassments heaped upon the American people in recent years. (Can we forget, for instance, that perfect storm of wickedness, corruption and stupidity we refer to as "George Bush"?)

And while I no longer write to media correcting their errors of fact and interpretation, it might be worth it to send IPS a note urging that they correct their errors. As we all know, internet mistakes have a very long half-life, as they tend to be picked up and repeated by anyone doing a Google search for "rachel corrie".

Anonymous said...

PLAYGOER writes ruefully that "with productions like this...the 'authorized' My Name is Rachel Corrie risks becoming a little less special in this country each day'

Um, what would 'special' mean in these circumstances? Directed by a celebrity? Embarrassing to NYTW?

It seems to me that if Corrie's voice was what PLAYGOER was committed to, then PLAYGOER ought to be thrilled.

Otherwise, PLAYGOER was just committed to stirring shit up, and watching one major institution be force-fed crow by other major institutions.

Laying down your life for Schadenfreude is, in our opinion, even nobler than laying it down for free speech. But we did want to clarify the distinction--

Playgoer said...

I actually did not mean that to come off as so "rueful." I agree, the more the merrier. So bad choice of words on my part, then.

What was running through my mind was just how much the play MNIRC really did lose from the controversy--as opposed to cynically gain from it, as has often been supposed. A recurring point here has been that contrary to predictions that every NYC theatre would be jumping at the chance, none has. And the Corrie "movement" has moved on. Perhaps this means Rickman & co. have blown it by being too picky about who gets the premiere. Perhaps not. I'm not in on the negotiations....But, for the record, I have no vested interest in the success of the play itself.

I also have no vested interest in the spreading of "Rachel's Words" themselves. Just an oberserver.

Anonymous said...

A very NYC-centric article and thread. Though NYC is important to the history of theater in the USA, it is in no way the most important aspect of current theater in that country. The play loses NOTHING by receiving a US premiere on the West Coast.

freespeechlover said...

oh cine, grow up. "stirring shit." jeez, this is America, where we have the right to say what we want. you can call it "stirring up shit," but if it didn't stink to high heaven, there would be nothing to stir up.

Celebrity? Katherine Viner? Blow it out your ear. That's not what playgoer or any of us have been up to.

Frankly, I'm getting sick and tired of Americans on anything remotely related to the anti-Palestinian jihad that exists in this country and requires complicity at many cultural levels. If there is one thing that this blog has done is to make that ridiculous bizarre stupidity more visible so that even "radical" Americans can take out this neurosis and examine it.

And it is neurosis. And it does need examination. I would even say it needs psychoanalysis, because Israel is a fetish in the U.S. And too too many "radicals" don't stop and think why this issue requires different kinds of analysis, different kinds of theater, different kinds of politics, etc. than what they apply to other subjects, issues, etc.