Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

One-woman play humanizes Middle Eastern conflict

One-woman play humanizes Middle Eastern conflict | by AldenHarper Joy Theater’s first play of the season required countless hours of memorization and work by its cast: a cast of one person.

Senior Rosie Brownlow performed in the one-woman production of “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” The show had four performances between Thursday, Sep. 11 and Sunday, Sep. 14.

“My Name is Rachel Corrie” chronicled the last few months of the life of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old woman from Olympia, Wash. After high school, Corrie attended The Evergreen State College. While there, she took classes that caused her to become more involved in local and world politics. She ultimately joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a human rights organization that brings world-wide volunteers to the Gaza Strip. Corrie traveled to the Gaza Strip herself in early 2003.

The play is an accumulation of Corrie’s writings, pieced together from her diary entries and correspondence with her family and friends leading up to her death. It was written by   Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman and directed by Nancy Simon, Garrett Professor of Dramatic Art.

Last May, Simon approached Brownlow, a theater major, about acting in the play. Brownlow jumped at the opportunity. She spent much of the summer memorizing her one hour and 45 minutes of lines. She and Simon also traveled to Olympia together to visit many of the places where Corrie spent time, like her college, her local haunts and Capital Lake.

“I think it was really valuable just in terms of being able to be in her world,” Brownlow said of the Olympia trip.

“It’s a great reference point later when I’m looking for images, and I just have a concept of the home that was so important for her for 23 years.”

Brownlow said that she had to generate these images and strongly connect to the audience, in lieu of connecting with a physical partner on stage. It was a difficult and different experience for her, since she had never acted in a one-person show before. But she said the one-on-one attention she gained from rehearsing was invaluable.

“I feel more prepared for this play than I ever have, even though it’s so huge,” she said.

Despite the serious nature of the play, Brownlow said that humor was an important component.

“I think people come into it expecting it to be really serious, because they just sort of know it’s about this woman who died and the Middle East Palestinian conflict,” Brownlow said. “But there are definitely a lot of funny moments, and she’s a very, very funny person. Humor is really present in her writing. One of the things people are saying is that she never lost her sense of humor: never ever: even when she was in these horrible conditions. I think it was something that she really valued, being able to laugh at herself.”

While the play did produce laughter, several audience members were visibly moved by the content.
“It was very powerful,” said junior Kali Stoehr. “I actually made a point to not go into it with expectations. I knew it was about the Middle East and I was expecting something about the conflict, but that was more intense than I was expecting.”

Other audience members described the play as very thought-provoking.

“In terms of the issue it was addressing, it was trying to show something that is present in our lives but not really an issue for most people,” senior Kate Greenberg said.

Senior Ariana Rampy applauded not only the acting by Brownlow, but the reaction it caused on campus.

“I think it’s great, because I saw a lot of people coming in tonight who didn’t know how to get to the theater, which means they don’t come here very often,” Rampy said. “I think it’s great that this has created that much attention.”

Brownlow emphasized that this play does have strong political overtones and is very controversial. But the point of the play, she said, was not primarily political.

“I think if the play succeeds, it succeeds in humanizing her,” she said. “She’s just been this polarizing figure, because people have very strong opinions on the Middle East. It’s very important to just realize that she’s just human. We all are.”

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