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My Name is Rachel CorriePosted May 16th, 2009 by Tom
I attended a play last night that is being performed this weekend at EMU. My Name is Rachel Corrie is extraordinary. It is also the perfect production for this weekend when over 100 students from around the world are on campus for the Summer Peacebuilding Institute.
On March 16, 2003, a 23-year old woman from Olympia, Washington was killed in Gaza when a bulldozer, operated by the Israeli Defense Force intent on demolishing a house in Rafah, crushed her to death as she stood between the home and the bulldozer. Rachel Corrie was in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles. Before this weekend I’d never heard of her.
Actor Alan Rickman decided to create a play to tell Rachel’s story. He collaborated with Guardian editor Katharine Viner. They planned to hire a writer to incorporate Rachel’s journal writings and powerful e-mails into the story of her life. Ultimately, they hired no one. They simply edited Rachel’s own words into the entire play.
My Name is Rachel Corrie has been controversial. After her death pro-Israeli voices portrayed her as a tool of terrorists. Pro-Palestinians saw her as a martyr and a hero.
The play was a huge hit in London. It has played all over the world, including in Israel, but proved too hot for New York. It was scheduled to open off-Broadway at at the New York Theatre Workshop but was canceled due to “the current political climate.” What is troubling and difficult to understand is that in the country that basically invented, and staunchly defends, freedom of speech, the words of a 23-year old non-violent peace-worker would be squelched.
After the performance last night my friend Belinda asked me if I remember having that “fire in the belly” when I was Rachel’s age. For many people there is a magical time in life when you become deeply passionate about having a positive impact on the world. Belinda and I both remember it. She also said she felt a little reckless at that point in her life. With all her deep passion, her belief in justice and peace, Rachel Corrie took action that ended her life. Some would surely portray her as reckless. In Ms. Viner’s words, she and Rickman “tried to do justice to the whole of Rachel: neither saint nor traitor, both serious and funny, messy and talented, devastatingly prescient and human and whole.”
They’ve succeeded on all counts. I recommend this play highly. It will also take some effort on your part. The theaters willing to present My Name is Rachel Corrie are few; mostly small theaters and colleges. Ask about it. Recommend it. You can also buy the script.
My Name is Rachel Corrie will make you think and it will stay with you.