Burning Coal Theatre Company will conclude its 2010-11 “Wait ‘Til You See This” second-stage season with My Name Is Rachel Corrie, a controversial ripped-from-the-headlines drama created by actor-director Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner from the diaries, letters, and e-mails of Evergreen State College student and International Solidarity Movement peace activist Rachel Aliene Corrie (1979-2003), on May 19-22 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, near the Historic Oakwood Section of downtown Raleigh, NC.
Internationally renowned theater artist Tea Alagić, a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina now living in New York City, will direct this provocative play for Burning Coal; and recent Elon University graduate Alice Rose Turner will play the role of the 23-year-old American who was crushed to death on March 16, 2003 in Gaza while trying to stop an Israeli Army bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home.
Burning Coal will let Triangle theatergoers decide for themselves whether My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a “one-sided, anti-Israel diatribe,” as Jewish-Theatre.com and Rachel Corrie Facts claim, or a more even-handed examination of the results of punitive Israeli policies in the occupied Gaza Strip that resulted in the death of the play’s title character, either by accident (as the Israelis claimed) or on purpose (as other witnesses claimed).
According to Burning Coal Theatre Company:
“My Name Is Rachel Corrie … premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2005 and was subsequently transferred to London’s West End.
“When the New York Theatre Workshop, scheduled to present the play in its American premiere, suddenly announced cancellation of the production following significant protests, film actor Alan Rickman, co-author of the work, presented it himself for a limited Off-Broadway run.
“The play has met with significant protest at many of the cities in which it has been presented. It details the early life of a young American woman from the northwestern United States who elected early on to spend her life working in politically charged situations. It asks the question, ‘What ought a person to do in the face of seemingly insurmountable injustice?'”
Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis says, “I saw [My Name Is Rachel Corrie] in the West End in London in 2006. It had transferred there from the Royal Court [Theatre]. I had not seen or read it prior to that time, nor did I know anything about Rachel or her brief life.”
He adds, “I wanted our company to do it because I felt the production I’d seen was not the definitive production. I also thought it was a seldom seen take on an issue that continues to haunt the world well into the 21st century.
“When I met Tea Alagic last fall, when she came to Raleigh to work on a staged reading of a play we were doing a reading of, ” Jerry Davis says, “I knew that she was the right director for this piece. Her own background, plus her intrinsic understanding of metaphor and imagery meant that she’d be able to make the piece theatrical in a way that I felt that first production had not been able to do.”
When the curtain rises on My Name Is Rachel Corrie, Davis says, “A young woman from the northwestern U.S., Rachel Corrie (Alice Turner) decides that she must go out into the world and do something constructive with her life. She settles upon [protesting] the building of settlements in the Gaza Strip by Israel at the expense of Palestinians who have called the land their home for decades.”
In addition to Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis, the creative team for My Name Is Rachel Corrie includes director Tea Alagic, technical director Paul Kilpatrick, set designer Joe Tilford, lighting designer Megan Swift, costume designer Samantha Corey, properties manager Joan Wilkerson, sound designer Aharon Segal, and stage manager Joan Wilkerson. (Tilford is the head of scene design at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Wilkerson will attend Columbia University’s MFA program for stage managers this fall, and Corey is a recent graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone.)
Jerry Davis says the Burning Coal’s set for My Name Is Rachel Corrie is “a gray netherworld, with a raised platform that represents all areas in the play”; its lighting is “stark”; and its costumes are “modern, as would be worn by a young American girl/woman in the late 1990s.”
“[My Name Is Rachel Corrie] is a one-woman show, which is difficult because it doesn’t allow for angles in the staging, or at least makes them much more difficult to construct,” claims Jerry Davis. “It’s a true story drawn from the diary of Rachel Corrie. It seems to be a fairly evenhanded presentation of information related to this event, which means that the drama of the event must be pulled carefully from the material, in order to avoid didacticism.”
In reviewing previous productions of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, Time Out London declared that this one-woman show has “extraordinary power” and is “funny, passionate, bristling with idealism and luminously intelligent.”
The Guardian of London wrote: “You feel you have not just had a night at the theatre: You have encountered an extraordinary woman [in this] stunning account of one woman’s passionate response…. [T]heatre can’t change the world. But what it can do, when it’s as good as this, is to send us out enriched by other people’s passionate concern.”
Newsweek magazine added: “Here is a play where the real dialogue begins when the curtain comes down. My Name Is Rachel Corrie is theater that not only stirs our hearts but sticks in our heads.”
The New Yorker noted: “The play shrewdly does not show Corrie dying; it shows her living, in all her funny, lively, melancholy, and manipulative immediacy…. Her words bear witness to the deracinating madness of war, a hysteria that infects not only those doing the fighting but also those ambitious to do the saving.”
The New York Times called My Name Is Rachel Corrie “an impassioned eulogy” and added: “[I]t’s hard not to be impressed — and also somewhat frightened — by the description of her as a two-year-old looking across Capitol Lake in Washington State and announcing, ‘This is the wide world, and I’m coming to it.'”
SECOND OPINION: May 18th Durham, NC Independent Weekly preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/an-american-who-died-in-gaza-in-my-name-is-rachel-corrie/Content?oid=2468472.
Burning Coal Theatre Company presents MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE at 7:30 p.m. May 19-21 and 2 p.m. May 22 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
BOX OFFICE: 919/834-4001 or https://www.etix.com/ticket/online/eventSearch.jsp?event_id=9497&cobrand=burningcoal.
The Play: http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3855 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Name_Is_Rachel_Corrie (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Rachel Corrie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Corrie (Wikipedia), http://www.rachelcorrie.org/ (Rachel Corrie Memorial Website), and http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/ (Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice).
Tea Alagić: http://www.teaalagic.com/ (official website).
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