Controversial one-woman play details life—and death—of American college student in Gaza

—by Jim Carnes

My Name is Rachel Corrie is a one-woman play that tells the story of a naïve young American college student who became a casualty of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Gaza. Ashley Malloy stars in the production, which will be presented April 27 at California Stage in Sacramento.

In 2003, an idealistic 23-year-old American named Rachel Corrie traveled from Olympia, Wash., to the Gaza town of Rafah. She went there as part of her senior-year college project to connect her home town with Rafah as sister cities. Corrie, who had organized in Olympia on anti-war and global-justice issues, became a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led organization opposed to Israeli military activities in the occupied territories.

In Rafah, she and other ISM activists protested—physically by their presence, but always nonviolently—to prevent the Israeli army’s demolition of Palestinian homes in their stated attempt to eliminate tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt into Gaza. On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie was killed (some say murdered) when she was run over and crushed by an Israeli bulldozer.

The information about what happened to the young woman on that day is contested. Corrie herself is depicted in contradictory terms. Some call her an idealistic do-gooder; others say she was a Palestinian sympathizer. Was she a peaceful innocent killed while trying to protect the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, or a supporter of Arab terrorists? The debate still goes on.

My Name is Rachel Corrie, the one-woman show crafted by playwrights Katherine Viner and actor-director Alan Rickman from Corrie’s journals, e-mails and letters home, adds to the debate. It tells in her own words her attempt to make a difference in a difficult situation.

It becomes clear in the play that she found herself in a situation more complex than she’d imagined. Some Palestinians considered even well-intentioned outsiders untrustworthy, but Corrie worked hard to prove her commitment to the cause.

Being in the midst of the Arab-Israeli conflict was a learning experience, and difficult, too. In one of her last letters home, Corrie wrote: “I just want to tell my mom that I’m really scared, and I’m questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop.”

Since her death, her parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, have established the Rachel Corrie Foundation to “promote peace and raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians.” They continue what they believe to be her work and will participate in a discussion after the performance here.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, April 27, at California Stage, 2509 R Street. The provocative play is hosted by California Stage and Resurrection Theatre in conjunction with the local Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestinian American League. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. For tickets or for more information, call (916) 223-9568 or go to http://rachelcorriesacramento.bpt.me