Hot-button play

A reading of the one-woman play "My Name is Rachel Corrie" will be presented at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 30-31, in the Ashland art gallery Nuwandart instead of an Ashland theater.

Nell Geisslinger of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will play the title role. OSF actor Geofrey Blaisdell is directing. Nuwandart accommodates about 75 playgoers.

The play, a flash point for controversy, is the true story of a 23-year-old American woman who in 2003 was killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer while protesting the razing of a house in the Gaza Strip. It played without major incidence in England but in this country has been the subject of angry condemnations, public arguments and cries of censorship flying around.

Blaisdell, who has acted on and off Broadway and in regional theaters, and Geisslinger worked on the play at Oregon Stage Works in Ashland until Artistic Director Peter Alzado decided the theater was not prepared to go ahead with the production this summer.

Alzado says after people expressed concerns about the play he wanted to talk with local rabbis about it, but conflicting schedules and vacations drew out the process, and discussions did not take place in a timely manner.

"We said the hell with that, we're going to rent some space and do it ourselves," Blaisdell says. "There are people who want to see it."

Alzado says he understands that.

"They're emotionally involved and want to do it," he says.

He says OSW itself may yet do a production of the play, but probably not until the start of next year's season in September.

Edited by British actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner, the play is pieced together from journals and e-mails written by the real Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist. The first theater to delay a production of the play was the New York Theater Workshop, which is known for championing politically daring plays. Theater artists such as Vanessa Redgrave, Harold Pinter and Tony Kushner protested.

"I think it's a terrific play," Blaisdell says. "I wouldn't commit myself to anything that didn't say something about the human condition."

Alzado says he might combine a 2008 production with other events such as readings, poetry and music related to the Palestinian-Israeli situation on both sides.

The New York Times' Ben Brantley called the play an "invigoratingly detailed portrait of a passionate political idealist in search of a constructive outlet."

"In many respects it's a free speech and censorship issue," Blaisdell says. "To be honest I'm not on anybody's side.I'm interested in presenting a piece of theater. If you disagree, you're welcome to picket — I encourage them to come and picket — but allow people to see it."

Tickets are $10 and are available at Music Coop in Ashland.

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