Wednesday, October 18, 2006

On Stage Off-Base

On the last broadcast of NY1’s On Stage (transcription not online), Patrick Pacheco pitched softballs to the star and co-creator of the show My Name is Rachel Corrie, the Off-Broadway show which celebrates Corrie, the American college student who went to Rafah with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian advocacy group that considers Hamas and Islamic Jihad “resistance groups.” Corrie was killed when her group disrupted IDF attempts to clear houses with weapon smuggling tunnels, becoming a propaganda tool for Israel haters. Pacheco’s interview did nothing to provide any needed balance or perspective.

Perhaps the truest words spoken came from Viner when asked about the drawbacks of relying on a single viewpoint, admitting: “we didn’t approach it as a piece of journalism. This is a piece of theater. Theater doesn’t have to be balanced—on the one side this, on the other side that.” So New York theatergoers should take their propaganda and like it.

Actress Megan Dodds admitted to general ignorance of the Middle East before she took the role, saying “I had to do as much research as I possibly could in order to understand her experience. Having done that, and trying to, you know, keep up to date on the Middle East, I fell like I still don’t know enough.” Viewers were probably inclined to agree with that statement too. If she missed the resources of MEMRI and CAMERA during her initial research period, they would definitely help her keep up to date. Perhaps her best line was: “I find myself feeling very frustrated as artist because I don’t feel that you should use your means of expression to shout about your political beliefs.” Yeah, right.

Another laughable exchange occurred when Pacheco asked if theater can “widen the perspective” of the debate on Mid East policy, as if there is wide spectrum of opinions expressed on the NY stage. Viner answered with a straight face: “I hope it will make people engage with different sorts of voices” and “do more reading and find out more about the situation.” Again, MEMRI and CAMERA are good places to start for more reading. As for “engaging with different sorts of voices,” good luck waiting for an Off-Broadway production sympathetic to Israel.

Easily Pacheco made the most offensive statement of the night when he stated “It is tragically ironic that the play most reminds me of the Diary of Anne Frank.” Let’s make this clear. Frank was killed by the National Socialists because she was Jewish. Corrie, misguided as she may have been, volunteered for ISM, an organization that supported the PLO and Hamas, terrorist organizations that specifically targeted Jews in Israel. Not a moral equivalent—not even close.

Tom Gross made a salient point early on during the Corrie canonization effort, when he wrote of “The Other Rachel” (Via LGF):

My Name is Rachel Thaler is not the title of a play likely to be produced anytime soon in London. Thaler, aged 16, was blown up at a pizzeria in an Israeli shopping mall. She died after an 11-day struggle for life following the February 16, 2002 attack when a suicide bomber approached a crowd of teenagers and blew himself up.

She was a British citizen, born in London, where her grandparents still live. Yet I doubt that anyone at London’s Royal Court Theatre, or most people in the British media, have heard of her.

Of course, the ISM Corrie was involved with would call the suicide bomber who killed Thaler a resistance fighter. Indeed, suicide bomber Asif Muhammad Hanif was a documented guest at an ISM crash pad five days before he murdered three and wounded fifty in an attack his ISM hosts disavow prior knowledge of.

Next week, On Stage reviews Rachel Corrie. If Roma Torre gets the assignment, there’s a hope for an even-handed review, however she has already had to sit through such dreary agit-prop fare as School of the Americas and The Treatment. If contributing critic David Codey gets the honors, an ideologically motivated rave is in the bag for Corrie.