April 11, 2006

SO INSTEAD THEY'RE DOING "THE UNSINKABLE GIULIANA SGRENA":

Theater's Contested Ground: Tale of Slain Middle East Activist Touched a Nerve -- Especially After Plans to Stage It Were Scrubbed (David Segal, April 9, 2006, Washington Post)

[James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop] achieved something close to instant infamy in the theater world when, in late February, he announced the postponement of the American premiere of "My Name Is Rachel Corrie." The play, which has been staged in London, is drawn from the writings of an American activist crushed to death three years ago at age 23 by an Israeli bulldozer as she protested demolitions in Gaza. The one-woman play includes snippets of her diary and e-mail, following Corrie from her childhood in Washington state to her final days on the front lines of Palestinian protests against Israel.

When Nicola asked the managers of the Royal Court Theatre, which owns the rights to the play, for additional time to mount the production, what they heard was not "We can't meet the current schedule." They heard "We're bailing."

"James told us that he wanted to postpone the production indefinitely ," says Royal Court spokesman Ewan Thomson. "And he said, 'If you want to talk to other partners, I will completely understand.' We were like, 'Oh my God.' "

A full-blown debacle ensued. The theater was accused of caving to its Jewish advisers and friends who consider "Corrie" a piece of anti-Israel agitprop. It was an impression reinforced by Nicola, who acknowledged that after agreeing in January to stage the play he'd canvassed Jewish acquaintances, among others. Some of them had read the play, some just knew Corrie's story. The vehemence of the response surprised him.

Now why Nicola was surprised is a bit of a mystery. Though unknown to most Americans, Corrie is one of those polarizing figures who personify the chasm between Israelis and Palestinians. A Unitarian, she was part of the International Solidarity Movement, which organizes nonviolent protests in the West Bank and Gaza, deploying members as "human shields" against destruction of Palestinian property. Soon after her death, she was lionized as a martyr by Yasser Arafat. Israelis generally regard her as a deluded and overzealous partisan; they assert that she perished trying to protect terrorists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2006 7:17 AM
Comments

Odds are some of those who greenlighted the staging of the play to begin with knew the basics of Corrie's post-9/11 anti-Americanism, which was fine with them, but didn't comprehend the reaction of others to her anti-Israeli/ pro-Palestinian feelings. In the liberal world of New York City theater and arts, being anti-U.S. with a Republican in the White House is not a blackballing sin, but being as anti-Israeli as Corrie was still can cause problems, especially with Arafat dead and Sharon out of the spotlight.

Posted by: John at April 11, 2006 11:06 AM

Rachel Corrie died in front of a house being demolished because there were tunnels in the basement used for smuggling weapons and explosives. Had an IDF officer shown her the tunnel(s), she might have said they were root cellars.

Prejudice can be deadly.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 11, 2006 11:10 AM

So who gets to win an Oscar for playing Ms. Corrie in the inevitable fawning biopic? Natalie Portman, maybe?

Posted by: b at April 11, 2006 11:14 AM

How hard can it be to stage the wit and wisdom of Rachel Corrie: Capitalism is murder; Zionism is racism; the occupation is genocide; Israeli armored bulldozers have unobstructed 360 degree views and fantastic brakes.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 11, 2006 11:40 AM

So we're still talking about the IHOP lady?

This picture is all you need to know about that one:

http://forums.pelicanparts.com/uploads/rachelCorrieburnstheflag.JPG

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 11, 2006 11:58 AM

karen carpenter would have been great for this role.

do you think they will have a bull-dozer blade appear deux-ex-machina from behind some scenery ?

spielberg could easily adapt the script for Jaws to this story.

Posted by: toe at April 11, 2006 12:18 PM

toe:

Spielberg might just put a halo over her as the bulldozer approached. Or perhaps a grin on the driver's face.

Posted by: ratbert at April 11, 2006 1:55 PM

did i say spielberg ? i meant king, stephen king, in a revised version of "Maximum Overdrive" with corrie as the diner waitress.

Posted by: toe at April 11, 2006 2:56 PM
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