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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 2.24.11


•Sorry for the Diatribe

Activists story told in My Name is Rachel Corrie

By Dante Zu¿iga-West

Nicole Trobaugh as Rachel Corrie

My Name is Rachel Corrie, a play dedicated to the short life of activist Rachel Corrie, is deceptively personal given the volatile subject matter surrounding her death. In 2003, at the age of 24, Corrie was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes. If you had the privilege of sitting front row throughout the final quarter of Lord Leebricks production, you could hear the sniffling of audience members behind you.

A heart-wrenching portrait of a young idealist coming to terms with her own disillusionment, the play ã directed by Carol Horne Dennis and starring Nicole Trobaugh ã destroys the cognitive barrier between theater and audience. This feat is accomplished partially through the transcendent performance of Trobaugh, who embodies the sensitive, sheltered, outraged and, in the final months of her life, disparaged Rachel Corrie; it is also a result of the format in which the play was "written.” A one-woman tour-de-soliloquy, My Name is Rachel Corrie is composed entirely of Corries emails and journal entries to herself, her friends and her parents, edited for the stage by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner. Corries correspondences document the period of time during which the young activist decided to go abroad, continuing all the way up to just before her grisly death. In short, Corrie wrote the play, and it is precisely this that makes the work inescapable. You watch it knowing that these are the real thoughts, feelings and emotions of a very passionate young person who wont survive her journey abroad.

The audience first meets Corrie in her dorm room at the Evergreen State College, while she muses on the nature of her sheltered life in her hometown of Olympia, Wash. At this point she is preparing herself for a momentous trip to confront what she perceives as injustices perpetuated by U.S. foreign policy. And the audience last sees Corrie walking off to her death, determined to stand for change in a world she has come to perceive as fundamentally cruel and morally indifferent. Perhaps the most guttural part of the performance takes place in the closing scenes of the play when Corries journal entries, brought to life by Trobaugh, turn brutally introspective as she begins to doubt her belief in the inherent goodness of human nature. At that point, she is living with a Palestinian family and has grown accustomed to the constant presence of death, tanks and gunshots ã a world away from the Olympia she will never see again.

My Name Rachel Corrie is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but even more its a glimpse at the spirit of a young activist. The play strips away the inherent biases one may possess about yet another tale of some young white college kid going overseas to confront issues in countries not her own, and it does so by placing us beneath the treads of unabashed personal quandary. Personality aside, the play is aware that it presents a snapshot of the political spectrum that could be seen as biased, which mirrors the understanding Corrie displays in the plays final impassioned email to her parentsã she signs it: "Sorry for the diatribe.” Diatribe and all, Corries story may be more important now than when she was killed, with the ongoing uprisings in the Middle East, and given the fact that we may not see Palestine and Israel reconcile their longstanding conflict.

My Name is Rachel Corrie continues through March 12 at Lord Leebrick Theatre; information and tickets at www.lordleebrick.com or 465-1506.