For four nights in September, the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum presents the controversial one-woman play that has become a flashpoint for opposing viewpoints about Israel's presence in the Gaza strip. Susan Angelo directs Samara Frame in "My Name is Rachel Corrie", composed from the journals, letters and emails of the 23-year-old American peace activist who died protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza. Four performances take place on September 1, 8, 15, 22 at 8 pm in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Pavilion at Theatricum Botanicum. A moderated audience talk-back will follow each performance.
Rachel Corrie, 1979-2003Rachel Corrie, 1979-2003A volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, Rachel Corrie left her home and school in Olympia, Washington to work in the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With permission from the Corrie family, British actor/director Alan Rickman and award-winning journalist and London Guardian editor Katherine Viner accessed Rachel's diaries and emails, editing a huge volume of written material into a 70-minute one-woman show. Passionate, sometimes irreverent and always intelligent, My Name is Rachel Corrie explores an extraordinary young woman's singular experience in a region most of us know only from the news. Yet, while Rachel's narrative certainly deals with political issues, that's just one part of her story. This acclaimed play also reveals the gifted writer and artist, the rebellious and frightened daughter, the young girl with a larger than life personality who described herself as "scattered and deviant and too loud."
The situation surrounding Rachel's death was immediately controversial and polarizing-was Rachel a political pawn, or was she simply someone who truly believed in helping other people? In her introduction to the play Katherine Viner writes, "We wanted to uncover the young woman behind the political symbol, beyond her death.... We hoped to find out what made Rachel Corrie different from the stereotype of today's consumerist, depoliticized youth."
Theatricum Botanicum is no stranger to controversy. The beginnings of the theater can be traced to the early 1950s when Will Geer, a victim of the McCarthy era Hollywood blacklist (before he became known as the beloved Grandpa on TV's The Waltons) opened a theater for blacklisted actors and folk singers on his property in Topanga. These were artists who weren't afraid to state their opinions at a time when it paid to be silent, and they banded together to do what they did best: create theater.
"We want to present this complex and important work because it is uniquely connected to Theatricum's mission: to help understand the world we live in and to embrace our shared humanity," explains artistic director Ellen Geer. "This is one girl's story. In reflecting her personality, experiences and beliefs, it's an anti-hate story, an anti-violence story, and the story of her idealism. She's fighting for a better world for children, all children. In her words: ‘Egyptian kids, Palestinian kids, International kids and Israeli kids.' "
Actress Samara Frame plays Rachel CorrieActress Samara Frame plays Rachel CorrieWhen the play premiered at the Royal Court in London, England in the spring of 2005, it played to sold-out houses and rave reviews. Despite this success, the New York Theatre Workshop put the planned U.S. premiere on hold in the face of public protests, including threats of violence. In the end, the play opened as a commercial production at the Minetta Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village in the fall of 2006, and has since seen productions throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Samara Frame (Rachel Corrie) has worked and studied in Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago. Theatrical highlights in Los Angeles include Haley Walker in the one-woman show Bad Dates; Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream; Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers; Elise in The Miser; Arviragus in Cymbeline; Celia in As You Like It; and Mag in I Wish To God, Mag, a modern dance tribute to Carl Sandburg at the Electric Lodge. She has appeared in over 30 films that have toured on international festival circuits, and her most recent television credits include ER; Scrubs; a new pilot, Bending Promises; the Independent Channel documentary Portrait of Courage: Flight 93; and PaxTV's Search for Heaven.
Performances of My Name is Rachel Corrie take place on Thursday evenings, September 1, 8, 15 and 22. All performances begin at 8 pm. A moderated audience talk-back will follow each performance. Tickets are $12. The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. To purchase tickets and for information, call 310.455.3723 or visit online at http://www.theatricum.com
The outdoor amphitheater at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. Audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Snacks are available at the Hamlet Hut, and picnickers are welcome before and after the performance.