His name is Peter Alzado

Ashland suffers from many philosophical and political battles that often spill over from ardent supporters and swirl up unsuspecting civilians in ways they could hardly have imagined. From flag controversies to expansion wars, few zealots respect the many people who live somewhere in the middle with far less passionate convictions.

In one of the higher profile examples, Oregon Stage Works Artistic Director Peter Alzado has been under siege over his decision to first produce the play "My Name is Rachel Corrie," and then reverse course and cancel it. As Alzado has quickly learned, a middle ground in the ongoing war of words surrounding the Israel/Palestinian conflict is virtually impossible.

Of course the issue has been blown out of proportion, becoming either a jihad against censorship or a great crusade for truth, depending on which side a person is on. Lost in all this high-mindedness is the grossly unfair portrayal of Alzado. Simply, the beleaguered director has become collateral damage for those seeking to win at all costs.

Dissect the rhetoric a bit.

Alzado is no wallflower unwilling to produce a play because of controversial content. Perhaps those attacking him for crumbling in the face of economic pressure weren't living here, or have forgotten that Alzado was removed as the artistic director of what is now the Camelot Theatre, at least in part because of the controversial plays he produced.

Since he founded Oregon Stage Works, Alzado has continued to produce difficult, challenging and intellectually stimulating plays, often at risk of decreased ticket sales. He has also contributed to the community's artistic growth substantially by producing plays written by local playwrights or performed by amateur actors and children learning to perform.

Some may belittle his sincere concern over an economic boycott from people offended by "Corrie," but this type of threat can not be underestimated. OSW operates on a shoestring budget as it carves its niche in a crowded local theater scene. Any financial threat could be its ruin.

The economic threat, in whatever form it arose, is highly distressing. The theater is place for public exploration of stories. While many may argue the veracity of the "Corrie" storyline, it is hard to make the case that audiences here shouldn't have the chance to see it and evaluate it for themselves. Rachel Corrie's ties to Ashland are strong, and interest in her life and death is high.

Alzado and his theater have been tossed mercilessly into the middle of a quagmire; first for agreeing to let the play run and then for changing his mind for the long-term good of OSW.

Alzado should be credited for his determined approach to find a middle ground. Next year's upcoming festival he is planning to produce will allow for the showing of "Corrie," as well as other plays that will tell the other side of this tempestuous topic. His desire to try to bring discussion and respect to an issue where similar efforts have foiled heads of state, let alone theater directors, is commendable. But make no mistake, now Alzado is embroiled in this issue and will be far after the conclusion of his festival. Pass the Exedrin, the problems are just beginning.

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