Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Name is Rachel Corrie

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" was presented by John DiDonna and Seth Kubersky and was an Empty Spaces Theater production. The play is part of The Dangerous Play Series. When I made my way inside Studio B of the Shakespeare Theater, I found Rebekah Lane, the star of the show, seated in the front row seat checking her iPhone. This was the first time I had seen her since rehearsals for "Project F." The assistant director Alex Richmond was lying across the bed and I included her in the sketch thinking she must play a small roll in the play. I was wrong. Before the house was opened, Rebekah crawled under the covers and pulled the sheet up over her head as she sprawled out with hands and feet dangling awkwardly over the edges of the mattress. The room was a mess with books and clutter everywhere. The walls are covered with pictures of Rachel Corrie's childhood idols like Picasso and Spiderman. Cinder blocks, sand and construction wire was haphazardly piled up against the back wall.

From the moment she woke up, the show was a non-stop high energy monologue. All the thoughts, reflections, silly girlish banter and growing mature convictions were taken directly from the writings and journals of Rachel Corrie. The opening act presents Rachel's fun playful side as she talked of silly matters like going to clubs in slutty boots. She was a beautiful idyllic 22 year old who was a dreamer. Thanks to the International Solidarity Movement she ended up going to Palestine where she hoped she could make a difference by helping children in the region. Living in a Palestinian home she discovered a growing conviction that she had to help the people suffering around her. Change can happen in life suddenly.

In the end a bulldozer operated by an Israeli threatened to demolish the home of a pharmacist named Doctor Shamir. Rachel spoke of the Doctor often in her journal entries. This was a personal battle for her. Just as in Tienanmen Square she hoped to stop the demolition by acting as a human shield. The exact details of what followed varied depending on eye witness accounts. The bulldozer did not stop. She climbed up on the mound of dirt that was forced up in front of her and then she was sucked down under the bulldozer and rolled over. She died shortly after in a Palestinian Hospital.

I was impressed with Rebekah Lanes performance. Being able to internalize, memorize and perform the whole show alone was an amazing accomplishment. It took three directors to help find the humanity and reasoning behind everything Rachel did. She often had to balance conflicting directors notes to find her character. Director, Emily Killan had performed in 9 Parts of Desire which was another play that dealt with women who had to live in a violent world. She used the experiences and depth of those characters to help shape Rachel Corrie's actions in this show.

The talk back, conducted by John DiDonna, following the play was just as enlightening as the play itself. Some people consider Rachel a martyr while others demonize her. Her memory was used by both sides in a violent struggle. The play tried to present her humanity. Anytime someone takes a stand with honesty and integrity, they open up a dialogue. One member of the audience felt the directors were tarnishing Rachel's memory since they would not acknowledge her death as a murder. John countered that the case is still being tried and the only person who truly knows the truth is the bulldozer driver.

Another audience member felt that we are loosing intimacy in this world, yet we still have the need to gather together in a dark room and listen to controversial stories which force us to think. The only danger is when people no longer feel the need to have an open debate. We had listened to one girl's view of a very complicated issue for an hour and a half. You might not agree with her convictions, but as long as people are willing to try and understand both sides of an issue then there is hope. Amy Richmond, the assistant director, admitted that because of her involvement in this production she went to a demonstration for the first time in her life. This play reminds us that we all have to find our strength and passion and use it for good. Do that with every single ounce of energy you have and you may awaken that passion in other people. Childhood ideals should never be ignored. This is an amazing lesson to learn from a quiet evening of theater.

2 comments:

eileen fleming said...

I was there for opening night and Rebekah's Lane performance blew me away.

I must now confess that I lost my temper during the dialogue encounter afterward when a man said he was still NEUTRAL because willful IGNORANCE makes me crazy!

Having been to Israel and occupied Palestine 7 times since 2005, I know-as Rachel Corrie did- that apathy when confronted with INJUSTICE is siding with the oppressors and that for me is unconscionable.

My story about Rachel is @
http://wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1991&Itemid=243

Thor said...

Thanks Eileen,

I of course checked out your site and watched several of your You Tube videos. I appreciate your citizen journalism and ideals.