Thinking, talking

From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

It's amazing how the weeks can just slip by around here. One play opens, another closes. My work days recently have been measured in free food and drinks: champagne to toast Braden and Marya on the great opening of Rachel Corrie; pizza to send off the musicians of Fire on the Mountain (no Kentucky bourbon, but it was lunch time). Now a brief reprieve before Gem of the Ocean (with the amazing Phylicia Rashad at the helm!) will open with great fanfare, capping a great, albeit exhausting, season. So, now that my very poor explanation of blog lag (excess food...ok, I've been busy with other things too) is done, let me share something with you.

The other day, I snuck into the end of a student matinee of My Name is Rachel Corrie to see the post play discussion. I was curious to see how high school students would respond to a play about someone not too much older than them. Would it resonate and ring true? They were virtually silent throughout the entire performance. The discussion was slow to start, but once Marya came back on stage and started--in her graceful, optimistic, humble way--to dialogue with the audience, the questions started rolling in.

Yes, there was the ubiquitous "How did you memorize all of those lines?" ("I'm still not sure I know them all," she said) but there were also questions about how the play has changed Marya's outlook on the controversy. Students asked if Rachel's spirit has inspired her to become more of an activist (yes, "I don't think I'll ever be the same," she said). One student from a school in Olympia shared that she played pinball at the same place Rachel mentions in the play. Marya's face lit up, "Really? You've been there?"

I've been having a hard time remembering that Rachel Corrie was a real person. Of course I know it rationally, and I've seen pictures and met her parents, but it seems impossible that these beautiful words could have come from the pen of someone just a little younger than I who lived an hour away and died in a country I pretty much know nothing about. I feel connected to her in a strange, remote way, but I feel oddly voyeuristic looking inside her head without knowing her. However, I think Annie Wagner might have been right when she wrote on the Stranger slog yesterday, "Everyone who keeps a private journal has some consciousness of a future audience, whether you’re aiming at your older self or fantasizing a public ravenous for your juvenilia."

It did seem like Rachel was writing for an audience of some kind, and I'm sure she would probably be happy to know her words were eliciting this kind of response--even outrage. The student audience asked Marya what she imagined Rachel would think about the play. Marya said she thought Rachel would be proud and happy to know her words were making people think and talk. It makes me think about what I'm doing now that would possibly impact anyone once I’m gone. I've just finished writing a country musical about heartbreak. While I'm sure someone might find it funny, entertaining, whatever, I feel really motivated now to use my passion for theater to start a spark. About something. Wow, it sounds like I'm writing a cover letter or something.

Speaking of writing, next Wednesday, April 4, Seattle Rep is presenting Teenspeak: My Name Is. Using My Name is Rachel Corrie as a jumping off point, students from three area high schools worked with Seattle Rep teaching artists to develop short theatrical pieces about their lives and the issues that are important to them. I got to sit in on their first read through. I was just stunned at the concise, insightful poetry that they've created. The performance takes place at 6 p.m. prior to the April 4 performance of Rachel Corrie. It's free, but reservations are necessary. Whether or not you're coming to Rachel Corrie that night, I would really encourage you to check out the My Name Is project. I think you'll find yourself rather inspired. To make reservations call the box office at 206-443-2222.

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