The main places to find the continuing and ever widening blog-orgy about Rachel Corrie are Playgoer (leading the charge); Superfluities and Parabasis. I bowed out rather early.
It's my view, though, on a very basic level, that the issue here has been overstated by very interested parties. Producers are calling each other liars. Israels military actions are being discussed. People are throwing around that deadly word censorship. Over beer with a few bloggers (lovely gents, both) I heard one of them say that the New York Theater Workshop has "given up the moral high ground." And even today, I'm wondering if the story hasn't become the story. And if anyone really knows what they feel the desired result is. Is it an end unto itself to take the "moral high ground?" Or do we want the New York Theater Workshop to scream mea culpa in the streets?
What are we angry about? Is it that NYTW bowed to political pressures? If so, then they claim to have gone out and looked for those pressures. Are we upset that they didn't hold up their end of the deal with Alan Rickman (who we all like to watch in movies)? Is it because the Royal Court seems to be calling the NYTW dishonest? If we're shocked that a theater producer pulled out of an obligation and doesn't entirely explain itself for it, we're living in a fantasyland.
I'm curious how many people have read the play. I certainly haven't. I also don't have personal connections that the New York Theater Workshop like Jason Grote does, so I have no inside information about this, nothing to add but my own anger, which just isn't there. This play will certainly be seen in NYC eventually, it will make more money than it would have otherwise (due to the contraversy) and someone will write a letter to the editor about it. If NYTW was smart, they'd change their minds right now and let the contraversy sell tickets.
The fact is, not producing a play that has a particular political subject matter is weak. But it is incredibly common. That is because our "not-for-profit" theaters are beholden to Board Members, audience interest, ticket and subscription sales...money. They are not funded like theaters in London, and therefore can get cold feet due to market and world forces.
The problem is not that the NYTW wants to shut down discussion about Israel and Palestine. The problem is, why is it worried about this? More than likely, the decision was financial.
That's the boring part. We can cry censorship all we like, but I think that Rachel Corrie's literary martyrdom is doing her message more good than if they play had just gone up next year, or or if it was being performed, right now, to your standard battery of reviews. Perhaps (here's a thought) the decision makers at the NYTW want the play to undergo some changes, or they don't feel strongly about it for quality reasons/content reasons but they didn't want to burn a bridge by saying so publicly. It could be as simple as that. Yet again, we don't know.
Maybe I'm lukewarm about this issue because I find the politics of the play a bit unsettling and I'm not sobbing that a play that puts a upper class white teenage girl from Washington State in front of an Israeli bulldozer isn't being used as propoganda in NY.
Or maybe I'm lukewarm because I feel like this is simply a function of an art that needs funding in order to make more independent artistic decisions.
Or maybe I feel a bit like an internal struggle at the New York Theater Workshop about a play I've never read has been latched onto and exploited on the blogosphere, to attack and cajole and shame producers I've never met, who made a decision I don't know the details about.
I don't feel this is censorship, it's much more complex than that. As I said on Superfluities, I feel like using the word censorship here is like using a sword to perform major surgery.
The rambling conclusion to this rambling essay is: Let's think for a minute. It's easy to become the mob. I think it's better to look for a solution. What do we want from this outcry, beyond just a chance to cry foul?
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.