The Arty Semite

'Rachel Corrie' Controversy Comes to LA

By Ed Rampell

  • Print
  • Share Share
Ian Flanders
Samara Frame as Rachel Corrie at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum.

The controversy surrounding “My Name is Rachel Corrie” has followed the play to Los Angeles. The one-woman show, starring Samara Frame as the 23-year-old American activist who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, opened this month at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, an outdoor theater space in Topanga Canyon.

According to artistic director Ellen Geer, the theater decided to go ahead with the production despite pressure — and threats — from pro-Israel activists.

“The pressure was directed to me,” Geer said. “They were personal to me, saying my own father [Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton on the 1970s TV series “The Waltons”] would be upset.”

Geer said that the pressure came not from organized groups, but from pro-Israel “individuals acting on their own.”

“We had a wonderful, wonderful conversation with the Jewish Federation,” she said. “They of course couldn’t back the production because they don’t agree with it. But they talked about how they understood what it was we were doing; I was quite impressed with them.”

The play, which was co-written by actor Alan Rickman and The Guardian editor Katherine Viner based on Corrie’s journals, letters and e-mails, premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2005. The show had a sold-out run, but it ran into trouble when it crossed the Atlantic. The New York Theatre Workshop indefinitely postponed its U.S. premiere in 2006, before the play eventually opened at Greenwich Village’s Minetta Lane Theatre.

Geer said the purpose of the play is to discuss Israeli-Palestinian relations, and that after each performance there are panel discussions with theatergoers. Following the premiere, Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler was one of the panelists, and the audience included a female rabbi, who called the play “one-sided.” Other panelists included Steve Goldberg, National Vice Chairman of the Zionist Organization of America, and Rabbi Sarah Bassin. Pro-Israeli literature has also been distributed near the theater’s entrance.

The Geers are no strangers to the art of controversy. During the 1930s, Will Geer was kidnapped and beaten by the Friends of New Germany when he directed the Hollywood Group Theatre’s production of Clifford Odets’s anti-Nazi play, “Till the Day I Die.”

In 1937 Geer had a lead role in the Federal Theatre Project’s “The Cradle Will Rock” by Marc Blitzstein, directed by Orson Welles. At the last minute the New Deal theater bureau refused to allow the pro-labor musical to open, and so the cast moved to a replacement venue on Broadway. In 1951 Geer testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, called it a “turkey,” and was blacklisted from Hollywood movies. That’s when Geer created the outdoor Theatricum on his land near Malibu. He went on to co-star in the 1954 radical classic “Salt of the Earth” and “The Waltons.”

Regarding “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” Ellen Geer said that if she had to do it all over again, “of course I would.”

“What I’ve learned from watching my parents is that when fear comes, that’s when you’ve got to stand taller,” she said. “Fear is a disease; it grows.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Will Geer, Theater, Rachel Corrie, My Name is Rachel Corrie, Ellen Geer, Ed Rampell

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.