“When I lobby in Washington, D.C., or when Cindy and I give a talk somewhere, I don’t do that for Rachel. I know I can no longer do anything for Rachel, so I do that for the children still living in Gaza. But somehow this play feels different. To me, it is not only by and about Rachel, but also for Rachel.”— Craig Corrie
NOTE: After the New York Theater Workshop “indefinitely postponed” the play My Name is Rachel Corrie, the play’s creators and the Corrie family were flooded with requests to perform it. Both the family and London’s Royal Court Theatre were heartened by such a response from so many people. Here, Craig Corrie responds to some of the requests and why it has been difficult to grant them during the past year.
Please forgive an old actuary, so new to the world of theater and activism, for weighing in where I have so little knowledge or experience, but I would like to express my feelings on two related subjects.First, I thank you all for the wisdom of focusing on the larger questions surrounding the fiasco of the New York Theater Workshop’s cancellation of the New York debut of My Name is Rachel Corrie. The silencing of this play is alarmingly similar to the silencing of almost any voice that speaks out for equal rights for Palestinians, and the silence we have all faced so often when demanding justice from Washington or Jerusalem.
The question is not simply why did the NYTW cancel the play, but what pressure would cause Mr. Nicola to abandon a play about which he said “ … when I first read this play, it affected me deeply, I thought it presented an opportunity to share with our community a powerful message that the good fortune to be born into comfortable circumstances comes with the responsibility of conscience. One must always be aware of the misery of others and take compassionate action” (as quoted by John Heilpern in The New York Observer). I also think all this work and media attention has been incredibly effective at bringing forth a discussion of the lack of discussion around this issue.
We have been receiving many requests to perform or read My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and there has been some frustration expressed at not being able to do so for the time being. I’ll attempt to address that here:
Perhaps the frustration that we all have with the limitations on reading from the text of My Name is Rachel Corrie feels a lot like another silencing, this time commercial rather than political. I don’t see it that way; I believe the concern of the Royal Court Theatre is entirely artistic and I want to state clearly my confidence and trust in what they are trying to accomplish.
When we were first contacted by the Royal Court Theatre and told of the theater’s and Alan Rickman’s dream of creating a workshop or play from Rachel’s emails, I was amazed that people of such talent, experience, and reputation would take that sort of interest in our daughter’s writing. While I always knew Rachel was a good writer, I wasn’t certain I was completely objective on the subject. So when we met at the Royal Court in the fall of 2003 it all seemed surreal. There Cindy and I explained that Rachel wrote throughout her life, and if we searched we could find a great deal of work they might be interested in. Since most of her writing was in her personal journals, we had not read what was there, but we would try to gather it together and send it to them.
That gathering proved to require far more emotional effort than what Cindy and I were then capable of, and nearly eight months went by without our getting the writing to the Royal Court. We then met Alan again at a dinner for the Tom Hurndall Foundation in June of 2004 and there Rachel’s sister, Sarah, promised that she would gather and type the material and email it to the Royal Court Theater. Unlike her parents, Sarah lived up to her promise.
When Alan Rickman, Katharine Viner and others at the Royal Court read the material Sarah sent, their dream took the shape of producing a play based solely on Rachel’s words (with a couple of other emails from Cindy, Todd, and me). They created the story line and text by selecting which writing was to be included. The dream gathered momentum as they found the right actress; the right set, lighting, sound and video designers. And the dream came to fruition with that first run last spring in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. In the fall the play ran again, this time in the larger theater downstairs, and now it is to be performed this spring at the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End. The Royal Court production has won over critics, audiences, and perhaps most difficult of all, Rachel’s family. Megan Dodds was spot-on that first day we met her when she said “You will love it!”
It took a great deal of trust and courage to turn over Rachel’s words to those strangers from London. The strangers have now become friends, the trust has been repaid many times over, and the courage just keeps growing! The audience sees the skill the Royal Court Theatre brought to producing My Name is Rachel Corrie, but our family sees the way they cherish Rachel and her words. They have given us a gift for which we can never repay.
But the dream was always for the Royal Court to bring the play to New York. Not just the text, but the production. Surely a play, like any piece of art, is both created and experienced as a unity. It takes all the production pieces to create that unity. And in meeting art, as in meeting people, first impressions can be lasting. For the people of New York to experience My Name is Rachel Corrie the way I did in London, their introduction to it should be through the Royal Court production. The Royal Court will set the standard for future productions of the play sure to follow in the U.S., and it is the public reception of this initial production that will demand that Rachel’s voice continues to be heard.
When I lobby in Washington, D.C., or when Cindy and I give a talk somewhere, I don’t do that for Rachel. I know I can no longer do anything for Rachel, so I do that for the children still living in Gaza. But somehow this play feels different. To me, it is not only by and about Rachel, but also for Rachel. This play, given to us and to the world by these strangers-become-friends from London, is a beautiful expression of both love and respect for Rachel. The people at the Royal Court Theatre have kept our trust, not just by producing an award winning play, but also by consistently treating Rachel, her words, and her image with dignity. Now I see it as our turn to keep their trust as well. Share in that vision.
People can and should read Rachel’s published email letters from Rafah. Cindy and I have seen that done very movingly; first by a group of young women Rachel’s age in Houston, Texas, and later by a professional actor in Ovada Italy. It can be very powerful, even when in a language I don’t understand, and feel free to use the entirety of the e-mails or portions of them. The Royal Court also made available for March 16th and March 22nd events a short additional passage from the play that is not in reference to Rafah.
The Royal Court Theatre has done an incredible job of bringing the play this far and that we need to continue to trust them and make the space for them to bring it the rest of the way.
I want to reiterate that Rachel’s words—as expressed in her e-mails—should be read and heard.
Thank you for your understanding, your patience, and your continuing support of Rachel and our family.
Coming (hopefully) soon to a theater near you:
My Name is Rachel Corrie
A Royal Court Production
The writings of Rachel Corrie
Edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner
Cast: Megan Dodds
Director: Alan Rickman
Designer: Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting Designer: Johanna Town
Sound and Video: Emma Laxton