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Play documenting peace worker has Harrisonburg debut

Posted on May 5th, 2009

On Mar. 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old woman from Washington State, was crushed to death in Gaza under a bulldozer operated by the Israeli army. Wearing the blaze orange vest of a human shield, she planted herself in the path of the bulldozer as it headed toward the home of a Palestinian pharmacist. It ran over her, twice. No one was held accountable.

When Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner decided to produce a play about Rachel Corrie, they sifted through her journals and letters going back to high school. What they read changed their minds about hiring a writer. “She’s done it on her own,” Viner said. “Rachel’s voice is the only voice you have to hear.”

My Name is Rachel Corrie

On Friday and Saturday, May 15-16, Virginia artist, director and producer Megan Hillary will bring to the Harrisonburg stage the compelling writings of Rachel Corrie, as edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner and starring Claire Covington as Rachel.

The play is produced by special arrangement with The Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, Ill., and sponsored locally by EMU’s theater department and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).

Doors open at 7:30 pm with the show at 8 p.m. both nights in the Mainstage Theater of the University Commons at EMU. There will be a talk back after the Saturday show.

The play had its highly-acclaimed premiere in a 100-seat theater at the Royal Court in London. Bids to stage the production came from all over the world, including Israel. Ironically, Rachel’s homeland proved one of the countries least hospitable to her tale. It tried to land in New York, but was turned away in a storm of controversy.

“Many things have been said about Rachel Corrie,” noted Heidi Winters Vogel, associate professor of theater at EMU. “Rickman and Viner remove the ideological filters so audiences can judge for themselves.”

Educated in both the fine arts and technical theater design, M. Hillary likes to fuse the two disciplines until the line between them is seemingly nonexistent. She has spent the majority of her time designing for professional theater companies, building installation art and choreographing performance art in New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Hawaii. She has been on the board of the United States Institute for Technical Theater (USITT), East Hawaii Cultural Center and Hawaii’s Ka Huina Gallery.

Every time she performs Rachel Corrie, Claire Covington forgets a little more. First she forgets studying theater at Mary Washington. Then she forgets the lines for all the other plays that she is currently working on. Sometimes, even childhood memories of life on a small farm in Virginia melt away. All that remains is the philosophy that her father drilled into her about the news reports coming in from Israel, Palestine and the Middle East – where her brother is right now – and the beautiful words of a girl who gave her life to try to change the world. She is very proud to be part of this project.

To learn more, visit The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice at www.rachelcorriefoundation.org

General admission is $10, students, $5, and senior citizens $8 at the door. Any group of eight or more persons will get a $2 reduction on their ticket price. General admission groups are $8/person, student groups are $3/person and senior citizen groups $6/person.

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