Charles Petzold

Simple Play, Controversial Backdrop

October 19, 2006
New York, NY

The polite man outside the Minetta Lane Theatre in the West Village asked us if we were seeing the play, and when we said we were, he handed us a printed card of "important facts to consider." The card indicated that the International Solidarity Movement is a terrorist front group that exploits young idealists like Rachel Corrie to be human shields, and that the Israeli Army bulldozers were attempting to uncover a network of tunnels used to smuggle explosives, and that the driver of the bulldozer couldn't see Rachel Corrie when she slipped and hit her head, and besides, the bulldozer never touched her.

Certainly this wasn't going to be a conventional evening at the theatre! As the long Wikipedia entry on Rachel Corrie indicates, the circumstances of her death "are disputed." She has become a lightening rod for the controversy and debate surrounding the Israel/Palestinian conflict, which is perhaps much more than someone who died at the age of 23 should have to bear.

What we discover most from the one-person play My Name is Rachel Corrie is that she was a passionate and eloquent writer. The play — assembled from Rachel Corrie's diaries and emails and performed by Megan Dodds against a set built of concrete walls and rubble — is simple in structure. It begins in her bedroom in Olympia, Washington, and soon moves to Rafah, where Rachel Corrie bears witness to the daily presence of tanks, armored bulldozers, and machine guns; to the humiliation, fear, and death of the Palestinian populace there; and to the bulldozing of their homes, wells, and greenhouses.

Trying to stop an armored bulldozer with the moral authority of one's convictions is both courageous and crazy. Within minutes, Rachel Corrie had become another casualty of this long and horrifying conflict. But she wrote compulsively, and it is her writing that resurrects her, and gives us much insight into why she was in Rafah, and challenges us to care as much as she did.