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Wednesday, 14 July 2010 17:24

One woman show tells of activist Rachel Corrie's life and death

Written by Gary Scott
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One woman show tells of activist Rachel Corrie's life and death
facebook:Blue Rose Stage Collective
According to figures compiled by Human Rights Watch and the Seattle-based web group Rachel Corrie Facts, 950 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks carried out between January 2000 and March 2003, when the young American activist Rachel Corrie met her tragic death in Gaza.  Corrie stood in the path of an oncoming bulldozer intent on destroying the network of tunnels that Israel believed were used by terrorists for arms smuggling from Egypt.

In 2002 alone, 60 different terrorist attacks were carried out in Israel, whose land area is about one-sixth of one percent of its Arab League neighbors.  Corrie was an idealistic student, a writer and artist who became convinced that the Palestinians were greater victims than the Israelis.  Her writings claim that "fifty-year-old guns are no match for the fourth largest army in the world" (the Israel Defense Force), seemingly unaware that a corpse is just as dead regardless of the age of the weapon that killed it.  In its first-ever production, the Blue Rose Stage Collective is presenting My Name Is Rachel Corrie, an account of the activist's life and death as told in her own words, edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner.  Magan Wiles is the producer and star of the one-woman show.

Despite her antipathy toward Israel, Rachel Corrie ironically bore a Hebrew name.  Steven Plaut, writing on the conservative web site FrontPageMagazine.com, refers to her as "the patron saint of terror" and notes sadly that the various Jewish victims of terror named Rachel have received nearly no mention in the world press.  In a stunning yet under-reported twist, Corrie's parents were themselves kidnapped by terrorists on January 5, 2006, while visiting Gaza, but were quickly released when their captors realized their street value as apologists for terrorism.

Magan Wiles is a talented and gracious young actress who seems sincere in her concern for all humanity, not just Palestinians.  Without her inflection, energy and skilled pacing, the 90-minute production would have descended into tedium and mere preaching.  Instead, thed audience was held in rapt attention.  Magan also proved herself a warm-hearted peacemaker during the heated after-show discussion.  Her sincerity and dedication cannot be doubted when you consider the tremendous personal effort she has poured into rendering a 90-minute monologue to stage-worthiness.

Director Tom Martin has constructed a simple yet tightly bound production, just what this play requires if it is to deliver any sort of message.  Stage manager and light board operator Dylan Duke also contributes to a seamless performance.  Unlike many community theatre productions, this presentation is generally professionally handled, right down to tickets and programs--although it would be a good idea to have performance dates and times, a company telephone number and an e-mail address included in the program.

Magan Wiles has emphasized, perhaps correctly, that theatre has no obligation to be objective.  That is why the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan were able to manipulate film so effectively.  And, on the other side, the tragedy of the Holocaust has spawned a veritable film and dramatic genre of its own.

Perhaps we should realize that no piece of fiction or non-fiction can be expected to accurately represent all facets of an issue.  It is at that point that we as audiences must drop our passive role and begin to earnestly educate ourselves so that we can understand and evaluate what is presented.  The process requires commitment, but we will be the richer for it.

Clive Davis of the London Times has called this play "unvarnished propaganda".  The Israel Defence Force, following its internal investigation,  has noted that the two photographs showing Rachel Corrie, allegedly just before and immediately after the bulldozer attack, seem to instead show different bulldozers and different times of day.  Ultimately, you--we--the audience and hearers, must decide.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie
continues at the Black Box Theatre through July 18.  For further information, e-mail bluerosestage at gmail.com.

[Producer's note: the events surrounding Rachel Corrie's death remain a source of controversy.  A  wikipedia article on the subject presents the various points of view involved.]

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