Breathing

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From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

Exhale. That's sort of the general feeling around here. We opened My Name is Rachel Corrie last night after a media storm (front page of the Seattle Times anyone?), controversy, anger, elation...and that's just from the promotion side. As you can read from Marya's gorgeous blogs below, the artistic process has also been exhausting, wonderful, scary. Now the production can fly on its own. That's not to say the work is done—from our end we'll be constantly dialoguing with the audience, making sure the work remains the focus of any controversy—but the piece can really have room to breathe now.

I saw the show on Tuesday, the final preview. I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time. I was caught up in Rachel's words, in Marya's pitch-perfect, vibrant portrayal, in every nuance and turn-of-phrase that she and director Braden Abraham overturned. The play is truly a journey and by the end I was a little shell-shocked. I stood with the audience in an ovation and it was then that I started crying. I let out the breath I was holding and the play finally really seeped into my blood. Afterwards, I couldn't stop thinking about it, talking about, which seems to be common impulse. The lobby stayed packed for a quite a while afterwards as audience members shared with each other their thoughts about the story.

For me, I was most caught up in the passion that Rachel had to make a change in the world. I know I've written about it before, but it's what is the most striking to me. I talked to my friend Diane afterwards, and we both shared this sentiment that the play makes us feel so sheltered, so spoiled, so ineffective. Yes, we are working at a theatre that is producing art that is encouraging people to talk about really important things. I don't want to discount that. But both of us feel like how can we possibly ever truly understand the privilege we have without being faced with people who don't have it? Rachel Corrie talks a lot about that in the play, the idea that we must leave our comfort zone to try to understand humanity. Of course, that's really the goal of art, isn’t it? To help us understand or at least consider our place in the world? But I have to commend Rachel for leaving the comfort of a privileged life to try to figure out what she could do—as an artist and just as a human—to make a difference. Maybe it wasn't the right choice to make, but she made one.

This is one of the first pieces I've seen at the Rep where I really didn't feel like there was a wall between the art and me. This isn't a criticism of the theatre I've seen here in the past—I work here because of the caliber of plays we produce and their ability to spark dialogue. It's just a testament to the acting and direction of My Name is Rachel Corrie, to the willingness of Marya to completely open herself up to the audience and let us into her world, Rachel’s world. We are on the journey with her, in her bedroom, in her head. This play gets under your fingernails, in your mouth in a way I have only experienced in small, intimate theaters. And even though the Leo K. isn't tiny and I was sitting in the back row, I felt the immediacy. This isn't an in-your-face confrontation like Thom Pain (which I also loved, though the style was off-putting to some). This is Marya/Rachel taking your hand and saying, "Let me show you something." It's an indescribable feeling.

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