A few months ago we covered the shameful episode in which the New York Theater Workshop, which had contracted to produce the New York debut of My Name is Rachel Corrie suddenly got cold feet and cancelled the production. For those who don’t know, Rachel Corrie was an Olympia, WA native who travelled to the Occupied Territories with the International Solidarity Movement to help Palestinians as they faced the Israeli Occupation. She was murdered by an IDF bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Gaza home. The one-woman show utilizes her journal, letters and e mail messages home to weave a portrait of a principled, conflicted and passionate woman who tried to make one part of the world a little better for its inhabitants.
NY Theater Workshop’s excuse for backing out was that after consulting unidentified Jewish people and board members they suddenly realized just how damn controversial the play would be for the Jewish community. They wanted to postpone till next season so they could do more to educate the public and “contextualize” the play before mounting it.
Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, co-authors of the hit London play wouldn’t have any of it and yanked the play from NY Theater Workshop.
I’m pleased to report that (from the NY Times) My Name is Rachel Corrie will come to the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village this fall:
Pam Pariseau and Dena Hammerstein, partners in James Hammerstein Productions, are bringing the play, critically acclaimed in London, to the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village. Previews are to begin on Oct. 5, with an opening scheduled for Oct. 15. The play is to run for 48 performances, closing on Nov. 19.
Unlike James Nicola, who so undervalued the play, the new producers understand the value of the property that’s been entrusted to them:
“We both saw the play and both responded to it very strongly,” Ms. Hammerstein said in a telephone interview yesterday. “We identified with the material in terms of being mothers and were struck by the production and the theatricality.”
…After reading the play, Ms. Hammerstein and Mr. Pariseau, associate producers of the current London production of “Sunday in the Park With George,” attended a performance at the Playhouse in mid-April.
“We went out to dinner afterwards with a whole bunch of friends, and we talked about it for two hours,” Ms. Pariseau said. “We responded to that and thought, ‘God, it would be so amazing to present that Off Broadway so that New York theatergoers would have that same experience.’ “
Isn’t it interesting to note the difference between Nicola’s timorous response to the potentially controversial material and Ms. Hammerstein’s:
Neither Ms. Hammerstein nor Ms. Pariseau said they were concerned about inviting any kind of firestorm.
“On reading it, our initial thoughts were about the play and about her writing, and not about any of the controversy,” Ms. Pariseau said. “Our hope is that people will form an opinion based on that, as opposed to all the other stuff surrounding it.”
Of course, they must realize that there will be some controversy and perhaps a lot. It depends on how high a horse the hardline pro-Israel community in New York wishes to ride. It could get ugly. But I’m hoping that Pariseau is right and the play is seen for its artistic merits rather than for the controversy it’s generated.
The NY Theater Workshop managed to continue to make itself look bad with this self-serving public statement:
“Although the Royal Court and its collaborators have decided to produce ‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie’ commercially, the New York Theater Workshop is pleased to learn that New York audiences will have an opportunity to see this powerful play,” Richard Kornberg, a spokesman for the workshop, said yesterday. “We’re especially pleased that Dena Hammerstein is the producer because she produced in London one of the workshop’s biggest hits, ‘Dirty Blonde.’ “
The statement is riddled with hypocrisy. They make it seem as if Rickman had chosen to mount a ‘commercial’ (Minetta Lane), rather than non-profit (NY Theater Workshop) production as if to explain why he’d decided not to use the latter’s services. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Interesting that now they feel the play is “powerful,” but not powerful enough to have the courage to produce it themselves when they promised to. And finally, they have to get in the fact that they’ve worked successfully previously with Hammerstein as if to show that NY theater is just one big happy family. Pretty pathetic if you ask me.
I’m sure that there will be differences between Rachel Corrie’s view of the Israelis and Palestinians and my own. I’m certain that we differed on some issues and that I might find some of her views extreme. But I value them nevertheless and want as many people as possible to hear them.
I’m also delighted to report that Rachel Corrie will be coming here to Seattle Repertory Theater from March 15-April 22, 2007.