Letter At Length

Whenever there is a controversial piece of theater scheduled to be performed, there are always people who are vigorous for its presentation and people just as vigorous against its showing. Such is the case with "My Name Is Rachel Corrie."

Before I continue, I must clarify: at no time did any group or individual threaten to picket all the plays at Oregon Stage Works or to shut down the theater. Obviously there was a misunderstanding. There was talk of picketing the production but never by a group or organization. At that time the idea of picketing and the stir the production would create for this young theater caused me concern, and led me to the decision not to do the play.

However, those concerns were an initial reaction and did fade. I began to think there was the possibility of offering the production. Hence, the attempt by both myself and Rabbi Marc Sirinski to meet during the very busy month of July. We plan to meet mid-August. It would have been better for this to have become public after that meeting. In the mean time, I have met with Rachel Corrie's aunt and uncle.

Controversy that I have dealt with in the past has always been about language, theme and subject matter, never about a tragedy brought on by a current political situation.

In imaginative literature there is a truth beyond convention and social mores, a truth created by the work itself. In politics, as we all know, truth can be elusive and spun in countless directions. The theater, if it is anything, is a place to shine the light of truth in hopes of greater insight and understanding.

The heart of the matter became this for me:

There are two stories. Both have been represented to me as the true story:

In the first story, a young idealistic American woman from Olympia, Wash. joins the International Solidarity Movement. This is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using peaceful, non-violent, direct action methods and principles. Filled with a desire to make a difference in the world, she travels to the Middle East in an effort to help the Palestinian people suffering under the Israeli occupation. While trying to protect the home of a Palestinian family from being demolished by an Israeli bulldozer, she is run over and crushed to death.

This was the story that I was originally intending to produce. I thought that it was a story that should be told and I had, in the cast and in the director, the talent and skill to tell it well.

The second story, is also about a young idealistic American woman from Olympia, Wash. who joins the International Solidarity Movement. In this story, however, the ISM is now a Palestinian-led movement whose purpose is to obstruct Israeli defense forces attempting to protect Israeli civilians from acts of terror. Filled with a desire to make a difference in the world, she travels to the Middle East in an effort to help the Palestinian people suffering under the Israeli occupation. In this version, unseen by the driver of the bulldozer, she is accidentally killed while attempting to block the destruction of a Palestinian home. The home conceals a tunnel used to smuggle weapons and explosives to be used for terrorist activities in Israel.

Which is true? And would the presentation of the former story without the particulars of the latter offer any insight or understanding into the situation on the Gaza Strip and the tragedy of Rachel Corrie?

In my curtain speech I speak of the theater as a place to resolve the superficialities that we have come to believe separate us from each other. That is not a platitude. It is what I think and what I feel is within the power of live theater.

I spoke with people on both sides of the spectrum, whose opinions I respect.

So what is the truth of the matter?

Presenting the bad guys and the good guys is as old as the hills and keeps us acting like we're all still in caves. Maintaining a position of self-righteousness on either side of any debate continues down the path of hatred and dissension.

Presenting a provocative piece of material without establishing a forum for insight and understanding keeps us running around in the same circles we have been running around since the beginning of time; and in no way honors Rachel Corrie's life and her passion for peace.

Peter Alzado

Producing Artistic Director

Oregon Stage Works

Share This Story