Activism Call: Why are people afraid of Rachel Corrie’s words?

AND HOW CAN WE WORK TOGETHER TO ENSURE THEY ARE HEARD?

Actress Megan Dodds as Rachel in the Royal Court Theatre production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, which ran in London from 11-29 October 2005. (Photo: Stephen Cummiskey)

THE BACKGROUND:
The play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” was scheduled to open in New York on March 22nd. It has been “postponed” indefinitely.

In the New York Times article on February 28, James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) which was hosting the play, said he decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work.

In the Guardian, the play’s director Alan Rickman denounced the decision as “censorship”, stating “Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard.”

James Nicola stated “I don’t think we were worried about the audience, I think we were more worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments.”

Strange that he should be worried about people who have never encountered her writing, and so removes the opportunity to let people encounter her writing and decide for themselves. What kind of pressure could Mr. Nicola have faced that would lead to such a decision from a theatre with a history of producing controversial works? Rachel’s mother Cindy wonders, “Why are people so afraid of Rachel’s words?” We ask the same question and are determined to give people the opportunity to hear those words.

THE COALITION:
We are coordinating a broad-based coalition of peace and justice groups, human rights groups, theatre groups, civil rights groups, and individuals to respond to this censorship of Rachel’s words with a strong and unified approach. March 16, the third anniversary of Rachel’s death, is a compelling date on which to do this. We are looking at a multi-pronged approach, encompassing both AN EVENT and A WORLD-WIDE ACTION.

THE EVENT:
A staged theatrical reading in New York City on March 16 of “My Name is Rachel Corrie”. We are inviting Megan Dodds and Alan Rickman, the actor and director of the Royal Court production to do the reading, but because they are mounting the show now at a theatre in London, it is unlikely that they will be able to come. In that case, we are working on finding high-profile actors in New York to do a reading of the play. If rights are not granted for the play itself, a highly publicized staged theatrical reading of Rachel’s e-mails and writings can still take place. The NYTW claimed, among other reasons, that they didn’t have enough time to put on the show. Let’s prove them wrong. We are doing outreach so this event can be staged in multiple cities nationally and world-wide if the correct permissions are granted.

THE WORLD-WIDE ACTION:
Over a 24-hour period throughout March 16, activists in cities world-wide in a public space reading (with or without a loud-speaker or microphone) Rachel’s e-mails and journal entries. Fliers can be distributed to passers-by encouraging them to ask the question for themselves: Why are people so frightened of Rachel Corrie’s words?

WHAT WE ARE ASKING:
Please endorse this initiative, and join this coalition. It’s not meant to replace any plans that groups may already have for March 16th or individual responses to the cancellation of the play (expressing feelings to the NYTW, writing op-eds, etc.) but to support them. In fact, we are hoping that a unified action, world-wide, and with press coverage will ensure that Rachel’s words are heard more widely than ever and, through her words, her message of human rights and justice will be heard as well. If you already have an event planned for March 16, perhaps reading from Rachel’s e-mails can be incorporated into or before/after your event. Groups and individuals can sign on.

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE:
• We are in direct contact with Cindy and Craig Corrie (Rachel’s parents) and are proceeding with their support and permission on all aspects of this event/action.
• We have sent a proposal to the Royal Court Theatre in London about the rights to the show. We will update you when we receive their response.
• We are approaching progressive theatre groups like THAW (Theaters Against War), with the hopes of developing contacts in the New York theatre community who can help pull this off.
• We have spoken to people from multiple groups and media outlets to get an initial feel about this action/event. People are enthused.

We are all outraged by what has happened. But we have the opportunity to harness our energy toward a very positive end. We are setting up a “Rachel’s Words” listserve and website to help facilitate joint communication. We will send regular updates as to which groups and individuals are signing onto this joint coalition and progress in the action/event. Please let us know if you want to be a part of this coordinated response.

Looking forward to working together in solidarity,
Ann Petter and Jen Marlowe
Please contact us at: rachels_words@yahoo.com
Website: www.rachelswords.org

Related Links: Background

  • BY TOPIC: Rachel Corrie
  • Theatre Review: My Name Is Rachel Corrie, Cindy and Craig Corrie (11 October 2005)

    Related Links: The New York Theatre Workshop’s cancellation of the play

  • The New York Theatre Workshop - official website
  • Play About Demonstrator’s Death Is Delayed, Jesse McKinley, The New York Times (28 February 2006)
  • Rickman slams ‘censorship’ of play about US Gaza activist, Julian Borger, The Guardian (28 February 2006)
  • Alan Rickman Denounces Cancellation of NY Play, Lauren Horwitch, Backstage (28 February 2006)
  • “Rachel Corrie” production in New York is postponed, Misha Berson, Seattle Times (1 March 2006)
  • A message crushed again, Katharine Viner, Los Angeles Times (1 March 2006)
  • Rachel Corrie to Make West End Transfer, John Nathan, Playbill (2 March 2006)
  • Rachel Corrie Bypasses New York and Heads to the West End, Broadway.com (2 March 2006)
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