Rachel Speaks

LIANA GREY Nov 2, 2006

My Name is Rachel Corrie is finally back in town after eight months of censorship that kept the story of the pro- Palestinian U.S. activist out of the New York Theatre Workshop.

The play is now showing at the Minetta Lane Theater – a tiny production space that might have felt claustrophobic had Rachel’s spirit not loomed so large over the sparsely decorated stage. Crumbling concrete and a cheerfully disorganized bedroom make up the entire minimalist set as the play follows the flow of Rachel’s thoughts, bouncing from anecdotes about her rebellious ex-boyfriend and “neo- liberal” father to tearful descriptions of Palestinian suffering.

The real Rachel was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer, but the actress Megan Dodds takes us well beyond the newspaper headlines, weaving excerpts from the student activist’s emails and diary entries into a 90-minute monologue.

Rachel leaves the quiet streets of Olympia, WA for bullet-riddled Rafah in the Gaza Strip, where she joins other young idealists on a relief mission to save Palestinian homes from destruction. She sees Israeli checkpoints and beatings and the destruction of greenhouses for what they are – cruel, misguided government policies. She learns to separate Jews as a people from the abuses carried out by the Israeli army, but her sympathies ultimately lie with the weary and frustrated citizens of Rafah, who continue to suffer the consequences of the occupation today.

Last February, in what many consider an act of censorship, the New York Theatre Workshop gave in to supporters of Israel when they cancelled the first run of the play. The group told Democracy Now! that “Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas,” had prompted their decision.

But controversial political views are only one part of the story; Rachel was remarkable not just because she joined the struggle of an oppressed people, but because she managed to transcend her roots as a privileged white American. Most progressive upperclass youths lament global oppression from the comfort of their parents’ McMansions, but Rachel translated coffee-table conversation into action. She died doing what she loved.

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