by Charlotte Silver
On November 19, 2009, My Name is Rachel Corrie made its Bay Area premier at Stanford University. Amanda Gelender, senior at Stanford University, produced a staged reading of the play as a part of her senior thesis at Stanford University. Amanda is my friend. She was also my college classmate and we worked together in several campus political organizations, including the student-led Israel divestment campaign.
I attended opening night and along with a sold-out audience was struck by the poignancy of the play and Amanda’s subtle and deeply moving performance. Rachel Corrie was a 23 year-old American woman who traveled to Gaza in 2003 during the Second Intifada. She was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer driven by Israeli Defense Forces as she attempted to prevent the IDF from demolishing the home of a Palestinian family. My Name is Rachel Corrie consists entirely of words written by Corrie herself, recorded in diary entries and emails from Rachel’s early childhood until a few days before her death. Gelender breathes vivid life into Rachel’s words, which themselves reveal the keen sensitivity and eloquence of a poetic nature.
Amanda Gelender, the lead and visionary behind this production, had been waiting to obtain the rights for the play for nearly two years. But obtaining rights is not always the only hurdle to securing a production of Rachel. Since its London premier in 2005, several professional American and Canadian theaters have seen their efforts to mount a production of this one-woman show quashed by vigorous opposition from powerful forces. The charge is always the same: the play is anti-Semitic. Gelender’s successful production reflects the changing tide that is occurring within the American public’s relationship to Israel and anti-Semitism.