Thursday, May 29, 2008

You Have to Love The Star

You Have to Love The Star, or not as the case may be.

Today, The Star, on the front page no less, runs a borderline anti-semitic, anti-zionist (and I know the two are different, but explain that to the anti-semites) story about a play based on the tragic tale of Rachel Corrie who died underneath a bulldozer in Gaza. You can find the story here. The article is terrible in so far as it recounts the mostly true tale of Ms. Corrie's unnecessary death, anti-semitic in so far as it suggests that the play has found difficulty in staging because of 'Jewish' elements in theatrical authority that find it distasteful, self-congratulatory as it has found a venue in Toronto which of course is above such things, but ultimately wonderful in this terrific sidebar (the last paragraph of which I draw your attention--the rest speaks for itself.)

Timeline: The Corrie story

After Sept. 11, 2001: American activist Rachel Corrie (above) becomes involved with peace groups in her hometown of Olympia, Wash.

Early 2003: Travels to Gaza with International Solidarity Movement.

March 16, 2003: Corrie, 23, is killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza while trying to block the destruction of a Palestinian physician’s home.

April 2005: My Name is Rachel Corrie premieres at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in London to enthusiastic reviews. Actor Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, features editor of The Guardian newspaper in London, put together the one-woman play from the diaries, letters and emails of Corrie.

February 2006: New York Theatre Workshop chooses to “indefinitely postpone” its planned U.S. premiere. The theatre’s artistic director, James C. Nicola, cites concerns expressed about the play by leaders in the local Jewish community. Rickman accuses the Theatre Workshop of “censorship born out of fear.”

April 2006: A private reading of the play is held behind closed doors at the University of Toronto for fear of outside agitation. None occurs.

October 2006: An independent commercial production of the play opens off-Broadway with minimal protest. It runs through December.

November 2006: Martin Bragg, artistic producer of CanStage, announces he will be mounting the play in his next season, calling it “the kind of story we need to be telling in our theatres.”

December 2006: Faced with opposition from Jewish members of his board, Bragg cancels plans to produce the play, claiming he found it “dull” when he finally saw it onstage in Manhattan.

August 2007: Theatre Panik announces plans to stage the play at Tarragon Extra Space beginning May 2008, directed by Kate Lushington.

March 16, 2008: An Arabic-language version of Rachel is performed for the first time in Haifa, Israel, on the fifth anniversary of her death. Corrie’s parents are in the audience.

If you were to turn the tables -- it was for example an anti-Islamic play and you wanted to stage it in an Islamic state -- in no way would it stand a chance of passing the official censors and not raising the ire of the local clerics. In Israel, and in Arabic the play can be staged because Israel, in Karl Popper's terminology, is an 'open society,' while its neighbors, also in Popper's language, are the enemies of 'the open society.' This is not to say that Israel is not without its faults or does not have blood on its hands, but Israel is the only state in the Middle East where such agit-prop against the state in which it is staged (and, arguably, is a result of) can be shown.

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