Nuwandart picks up 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie'

Nuwandart Gallery is picking up "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" where its A Street neighbor Oregon Stage Works left it off. After OSW decided not to show the controversial play earlier this month, Nuwandart jumped at the opportunity.

"We set out to create a venue for exactly this type of thing," said Rob Pendell, co-owner of the A Street art gallery that occassionally hosts plays. "The main purpose of Nuwandart is to have a venue for inspiration without censorship. What better place to have a controversial play."

About the controversy that surrounds the play, he said, "That's kind of why we agreed to do it."

"My Name Is Rachel Corrie" is a theatrical version of its namesake's diaries. Corrie was a 23-year-old from Olympia, Wash. who travelled to the Gaza Strip and was run over by an Israeli tractor as she was trying to prevent it from demolishing a Palestinian home.

When Oregon Stage Works was considering performing the play, Artistic Director Peter Alzado received critical e-mails about the play from Gary Acheatal, among others. Acheatal, who has passed out literature at other Rachel Corrie events in Ashland, is a pro-Israel jew, who said the play is construed by some in the jewish community to be a misrepresentation of the facts because some say Corrie was defending a terrorist stronghold.

The play has been protested at many locations around the country by pro-Israel jews. Some, like OSW, decided against showing the play.

But Pendell said Nuwandart welcomes the potential protests.

"I would love to see it happen," he said. "Controvery is a catalyst for communication. If we can get bring different viewpoints together and get people talking together at some level they will start to understand the other side's point of view. Communication creates community.

Tickets are now avalable, at the Music Coop on A Street, for two readings of the play on Thursday, August 30 and Friday, August 31. Nell Geisslinger will read the lines and she will be directed by Geoffrey Blaisdell, the same pair who were slated to do the show at OSW.

"We've got some momentum here," Blaisdell said. "People are interested in this story. I'm committed to getting it done."

Geisslinger came up with an idea that will allow for other voices, besides Corrie's, to be voiced during the reading. She and Blaisdell will set up a piece of plywood at the entrance of Nuwandart before both productions. Attendees are invited to write their thoughts about the play, or about the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the plywood. The message-laden plywood will then be used as the backdrop of their reading.

"Everyone will have an opportunity to express themselves," she said. "Since it's been such a big part of the controversy I want that to be a part of it."

The reading at Nuwandart may not be the last time "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" is performed in Ashland. alzado said he is considering starting off next year's season with the play. He would like to couple the controversial play with other pieces, either plays or poetry, about the Isreali / Palestinian conflict.

"We might still do something with it," he said. "We might open next season with it."

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