The Playgoer: "Corrie" Reading in Toronto

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

"Corrie" Reading in Toronto

Here's the story of one director's efforts to put on a reading of "My Name is Rachel Corrie" in Toronto. I'm fascinated by how this playtext has become such a rallying point, not for Israel haters and anti-semites, but for the younger and more activist theatrelovers around the country--nay, the continent.

Jim Nicola was right in his initial response that the voice of the contemporary socially conscious American youth is not heard enough on our stages. Too bad he couldn't follow through, but others seem to be doing so.


Anonymous said...


Nicola scheduled a March 22 opening, but a month before the date, he wrote to the Royal Court asking if he could "indefinitely postpone" the production.

He gave his reasons in an interview with The Guardian: "In listening to our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict that we didn't want to take."

Rickman was furious and PULLED THE RIGHTS INSTANTLY, claiming, "This is censorship born out of fear."

-- CAPS added: Is this the first report that Rickman pulled the rights as soon as Nicola made those stupid remarks to the press? Is this accurate?

PeonInChief said...

In fact, we don't know whether or not Rickman was furious (although we might assume that he was at least none too pleased) and pulled the rights immediately.

What we do know is this (and Playgoer's chronology provides much of this in more detail, so I won't repeat it here):

1. At some point toward the end of January the International Director at Royal Court became concerned that NYTW had misgivings about MNiRC. She apparently left New York just as concerned. So Royal Court must have had some inkling that all was not well at that point. [This is from the Nation article.] We don't know what internal discussion Royal Court had on her return.

2. On February 17 Nicola called Royal Court to "indefinitely postpone" the production. [The Toronto Star says Nicola wrote, but since both Royal Court and Nicola say he called, I'm inclined to let that stand. He may have sent a confirming email, but the important thing is that he contacted them.] We do not know if Nicola gave the Sharon/Hamas excuse in that discussion.

3. Julian Borger publishes the first report on the postponement/cancelation on February 28. In it he reports both Nicola's statement about the reason for the cancelation and Royal Court's response (which includes Rickman's denuciation). It's possible that it was Borger who carried the statement from Nicola to the Royal Court.

4. That's all we know. Rickman's reaction, other than what we can assume, may be a supposition on the part of the Toronto Sun, but it's possible that they talked to either Julian Borger or Katharine Viner, either or whom could have described Rickman's reaction as "furious."

5. What's more interesting is that if Nicola knew that the Royal Court had pulled the performance rights, he must also have known that the Royal Court probably wouldn't back down and let NYTW have the play after all, and that all he could do was damage control.

freespeechlover said...

Interesting, because one thing that Katherine Viner said in one the U.S. interviews was how many young people in Britain responded to MNRC.

The American in London link which had the positive review provides a nice sense of the demographic that Corrie addresses. The production seems to appeal to young Western youth who are probably more creative than policy wonk types who are nonetheless looking for a way to be "political."

Playgoer said...

Actually, the Toronto article's reporting may be a bit sloppy on the chronology and rights issues. It seems to be a quick--and not wholly accurate paraphrase of what's already out there, not original reporting.

The truth seems to be that the rights didn't have to be "pulled" because NYTW never owned them. Royal Court in this situation reserves the right to license other productions for a period of time. So as long as negotiations were proceeding, they were implicitly agreeing to allow NYTW the rights to do it. Once there was no deal, those rights are naturally withheld.

Also, to be fair, Nicola has denied ever saying the words "indefinitely postponed" himself. That phrase, I think, was first attributed to Rickman, Viner, or the Court itself. But I will check this.