Interesting story out of NYC…
Rickman slams ‘censorship’ of play about US Gaza activist
Julian Borger in Washington, Tuesday February 28, 2006, The Guardian
A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current “political climate” – a decision the play’s British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as “censorship”.
James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March.
“In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation,” Mr Nicola said.
“We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn’t want to take.”
He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.
Mr Rickman, best known for his film acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London’s Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision.
“I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production “postponed” does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled,” Mr Rickman said in a statement.
“This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences – all of us are the losers.”
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old activist from Washington state crushed in March 2003 when she put herself between an Israeli army bulldozer and a Palestinian home it was about to demolish in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.
The International Solidarity Movement, of which she was a member, claimed the bulldozer driver ran her over deliberately. The Israeli Defence Forces said it was an accident, and that she was killed by falling debris.
The Israeli government said the demolitions were aimed at creating a “security zone” along the border. The Palestinians say they are a form of collective punishment.
“Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard,” Mr Rickman said.
My Name is Rachel Corrie consists of her diary entries and emails home, edited by Mr Rickman and Katharine Viner, features editor of The Guardian. It won the best new play prize at this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards in London.
Play About Demonstrator’s Death Is Delayed
February 28, By Jesse McKinleay, New York Times, February 28, 2006
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.