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The Buzz, 3-22: Shirking and Ducking
Censorship at New York Theater Workshop; "Rachel's Words" Tonight at Riverside Church

"The... essence of theater is to communicate about lives, either lives that have ended or lives that are still alive.... (Rachel Corrie) was an extraordinary young girl. She didn't take sides.... It's not about taking sides, it's about defending human life.... To cancel a play -- and it wasn't really a play, to cancel a voice, because it was her voice -- is an act of such catastrophic cowardice, because we're living in times when people are quite fearful enough about speaking out.... People in the theater and film, television, dance, music, we have to do what we must do."

-- Vanessa Redgrave, speaking on Democracy Now, March 22.

"We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs."

-- Rachel Corrie, at age 10, cited on the website Rachel's Words.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

Tonight was to see the New York opening of "My Name is Rachel Corrie," the smash London hit constructed of journal entries and e-mails by the American activist killed three years ago, at the age of 23, when an Israeli soldier ran her over with a Caterpillar bulldozer as she was trying to non-violently block him from bulldozing a home inhabited by an innocent Palestinian family in the Gaza Strip. Was, that is -- until New York Theater Workshop artistic director James Nicola, apparently cowed in part by spurious Internet innuendo against Corrie, chickened out, theoretically 'postponing' but effectively killing the play, a collaboration between actor Alan Rickman and editor Katharine Viner. Nicola, who evidently has never heard of Bertolt Brecht, believes that it's not sufficient to present a play on its own terms; one must first conduct community surveys and then create a "safe" environment for the playgoer, to cite the word he used today on Democracy Now. God knows how Arthur Miller would have fared if it had been left to Nicola and the New York Theater Workshop to vet "The Crucible," the thinly veiled parable of the Salem witch trials that was Miller's brave response to the Red Scare of the 1950s.

"Censoring a play because it addresses Palestinian-Israeli issues is not in any way right," the acclaimed American playwright Tony Kushner told The Nation in Philip Weiss's comprehensive article on the NYTW's decision to 'postpone' the NY premiere of the play, originally produced by London's Royal Court theater.

"...(W)hat is it about Rachel Corrie's writings, her thoughts, her feelings, her confusions, her idealism, her courage, her search for meaning in life -- what is it that New York audiences must be protected from?" asked 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature recipient Harold Pinter and 20 other self-identified 'Jewish writers' in a letter published today in the New York Times. "Rachel Corrie gave her life standing up against injustice. A theater with such a fine history should have had the courage to give New York theatergoers the chance to experience her story for themselves."

Fortunately, the Riverside Church is stepping in tonight where the New York Theater Workshop, whose previous productions include "Shopping and Fucking," has shirked and ducked its duty, presenting "Rachel's Words," a star-studded evening of readings from Corrie's diaries and e-mail messages, capping a week of such events around the world. Among those appearing live or on live video feed will be Maya Angelou, Patti Smith (in a performance dedicated to Corrie), Eve Ensler, Vanessa Redgrave, Mariam Said, Najla Said, Alice Walker, Malachy McCourt, and Howard Zinn. Rachel's parents Cindy and Craig will also be in the house for the evening, which is hosted by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and by James Zogby. The event kicks off at 8 p.m.; for more information, please click here. To read more about Rachel Corrie, please click here.

 

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