JESSE McKINLEY, New York Times, February 28, 2006
Potential Off Broadway production of play My Name is Rachel Corrie is delayed because of concerns about show’s political content; play follows story of Rachel Corrie, idealistic American demonstrator and Palestinian rights activist who was crushed to death by Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop destruction of Palestinian home in Gaza in 2003
A potential Off Broadway production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” an acclaimed solo show about an American demonstrator killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop the destruction of a Palestinian home, has been postponed because of concerns about the show’s political content.
The production, a hit at the Royal Court Theater in London last year, had been tentatively scheduled to start performances at the New York Theater Workshop in the East Village on March 22. But yesterday, James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the workshop, said he had decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work.
“The uniform answer we got was that the fantasy that we could present the work of this writer simply as a work of art without appearing to take a position was just that, a fantasy,” he said.
In particular, the recent electoral upset by Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, and the sickness of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, had made “this community very defensive and very edgy,” Mr. Nicola said, “and that seemed reasonable to me.”
The play, which received strong reviews in London, follows the story of Rachel Corrie, an idealistic American demonstrator and Palestinian-rights activist who was crushed to death in March 2003 in the Gaza Strip.
The play was written by the actor Alan Rickman, who directed the piece, and Katherine Viner, a journalist at The Guardian newspaper in London, who pieced together snippets of Ms. Corrie’s journals and e-mail messages to create the script. And while the show had not been formally announced, Ms. Viner said yesterday that she and Mr. Rickman had already bought plane tickets to see the production at the workshop.
“I was devastated and really surprised,” Ms. Viner said in a telephone interview from London. “And in my view, I think they’re misjudging the New York audience. It’s a piece of art, not a piece of agitprop.”
But Mr. Nicola said he was less worried about those who saw the show than those who simply heard about it.
“I don’t think we were worried about the audience,” he said. “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.”
Mr. Nicola said that he still hoped to produce the play during the 2006-7 season but that he hadn’t heard back from the Royal Court yet. A call for comment to the Royal Court’s general manager, Diane Borger, was not returned.
“It seemed as though if we proceeded, we would be taking a stand we didn’t want to take,” he said.