Culture, Global, Israel

Give us plays of consequence

This week’s New York Observer criticizes the New York Theatre Workshop for postponing “My Name is Rachel Corrie” (which just finished a sold out run at London’s Royal Court Theatre this past October, and starts up again on March 28 in London’s West End at the Playhouse Theatre); however, the NYTW claims that they neither cancelled or censored [the play] and are “saddened by these charges.”

Mr. Nicola [artistic director of NYTW] hasn’t actually spoken to anyone who opposes the play. He has spoken to Jewish friends only “with degrees of discomfort with the topic.” The play itself affected him deeply. But he fears its production would open him and his theater to the accusation of “taking a position.” While he empathized with the tragedy of the young American activist with a conscience, the “unsubstantiated speculation” about the play might become bigger than the play. He therefore postponed the play.

See also Richard’s Post reflecting directly on the Feb. 28 NY Times Article on this topic and this post from a London based’s theatre news blog, which makes it look like the NYTW won’t be the place where this show comes to the US.

6 thoughts on “Give us plays of consequence

  1. This whole thing is a hilarious comment on NYC theater. Everybody wants the glamour of political engagement without having to actually get involved without actually admitting they’re taking a stand. It took a freakin’ test audience for the producers to understand that a hagiography of an ISM martyr would be… controversial. I’m not sure of the “plays of consequence” thing, however. The docudrama is the most middle of the road kind of theater imaginable.
    Meanwhile, this is giving what is probably a mediocre play enough publicity for an Off-Broadway run and regional tour. Be ready for it.

  2. Thanks for the link to my post.
    I hadn’t read this 2nd mealy-mouthed statement fr. NYTW about the controversy. THese people are clueless. What do they think theater is? Every play takes a stand in some way or another & certainly every political play does. THese people knew what the play was when they agreed to produce it. They just chickened out at the last minute afraid that some fat cat right wing Jewish donors would stop giving or that there’d be bomb threats at the theater. It’s all horse manure.

  3. Bomb threats? That’s a bit of a stretch. There have been Broadway and Off-Broadway plays about the Israeli-Palestinian issue that make this show look mild in comparison. (Sixteen Wounded on Broadway and When the Bulbul Stopped Singing at 59E59, for example.) No bomb threats there, or financial collapse due to “fat cat right wing Jewish donors.”
    I agree that the NYTW statement about the controversy has been mealy-mouthed. But seriously, I think this is more about them not even realizing that they play would be controversial. Which speaks more to the cluelessness and provincialism of the theater world. As a theater professional, that’s what makes me most upset.

  4. I doubt that this play is a “play of substance’. It seems to be an attempt to turn Rachel Corrie into a secular martyr, at least from what I have read in The Guardian, a UK left-wing newspaper. I admit that I haven’t seen it, but I have read an editorial by its author.
    Israeli artists are continually banned just for being Israeli and for no other reasons. I imagine that ban would include you too, Mobius, just for living in Israel.

  5. In the blog The Unsealed Room is a description of a major dance magazine, Dance Europe, that does not even acknowledge the existence of a single Israeli dance company, no matter how laudatory there politics are. They are Israeli and that is enough.
    What about Roger Waters who is in a great deal of trouble for daring to perform in Israel. His response was I am not going to stop performing in Britain because I disagree with Tony Blair. Israelis are people too.

  6. Agreed, Susan. I never judge plays or movies that I haven’t seen, but let’s just say I’m skeptical about whether there’s any substance to this play. The docudrama is the intellectual equivalent of reality TV, and political docudrama is usually dishonest.

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