New York Theatre Workshop Responds to Cries of Censorship Over My Name Is Rachel Corrie

News   New York Theatre Workshop Responds to Cries of Censorship Over My Name Is Rachel Corrie New York Theatre Workshop artistic director James C. Nicola responded to accusations of censorship — after postponing the heated drama My Name Is Rachel Corrie — in a statement found on the downtown company's website.

"In researching My Name is Rachel Corrie, we found many distorted accounts of the actual circumstances of Rachel’s death that had resulted in a highly charged, vituperative, and passionate controversy," said Nicola. "While our commitment to the play did not waver, our responsibility was not just to produce it, but to produce it in such a way as to prevent false and tangential back-and-forth arguments from interfering with Rachel’s voice."

The NYTW head went on to deny that religious leaders or colleagues were part of the decision to delay the work (a New York Times article first reported on the pre-show reconnaissance), but rather finding a way to present the work amid controversy. "We regret that requesting more time to achieve that goal was interpreted as failing to fulfill a commitment and, worse, as censorship. If we have erred, it was on the side of trying to be sensitive to all communities, in order to keep a public dialogue open and civil."

Nicola concluded "I can only say we were trying to do whatever we could to help Rachel’s voice be heard." (The full statement is viewable at www.nytw.org.)

*

The London solo drama, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, penned by actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner, is about the death of the titular American protestor killed in the Gaza Strip. Amid dueling press statements between London's Royal Court Theater and the New York Theatre Workshop — where a planned Off-Broadway run of the work was scheduled then postponed — the UK-based company said it has fielded offers from other stateside producers interested in transferring the work.

Royal Court spokesperson Ewan Thomson told the New York Times that the company wished to transfer the work to New York "as soon as we possibly can," in an effort to capitalize on the show's momentum. The work next transfers to a 36 performance West End run at the Playhouse Theatre, March 28-May 7, with original star Megan Dodds in the title role.

Seen last year at London's Royal Court Theater, My Name Is Rachel Corrie is concocted using her journals and emails. The tragic occurrence has drawn wrath from both sides of the politically-fueled fence — some saying the death was accidental and others contending it was not.

*

In response to a previous New York Times article which roused much attention, NYTW artistic director James C. Nicola previously told Playbill.com in a statement, "As the artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop for 18 years, I have worked to help our audiences and our community engage in an open and civil discourse on issues of our time. Our purpose for being is to create the most conducive place for these conversations; we have chosen the artists who lead these conversations with great care."

"We always try to minimize the distractions around the production so our constituency can hear the artist's voice. This takes a great deal of planning and listening to accomplish. In the less than two months we had to mount the proposed production of the Royal Court's My Name Is Rachel Corrie, we found that there was a strong possibility that a number of factions, on all sides of a political conflict, could use the production as a platform for their own agendas. We were not confident that we had the time to create an environment where the art could be heard independent of the political issues associated with it."

Rickman (last seen on Broadway in Private Lives and known for turns in the "Harry Potter" films) directed the drama in London which he penned with The Guardian journalist Viner. Viner previously told The New York Times "I was devastated and really surprised. And in my view, I think they're misjudging the New York audience. It's a piece of art, not a piece of agitprop."

For more information on Rachel Corrie, visit www.rachelcorrie.org.

Today’s Most Popular News: