On The Censorship of Rachel Corrie
We just got an interesting and thought-provoking email essay from Caridad Svich. Caridad is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, a contributing editor at TheatreForum, an editorial board member of Contemporary Theatre Review and the founder of NoPassport, a pan-American theatre & performance collective. Her essay is presented below, unedited, with her permission.
“On The Censorship of Rachel Corrie” by Caridad Svich
My Name is Rachel Corrie is an affecting, thoughtful, personal and highly considerate play about one womans journey through activism. It is a play of contradictions, confusion, and the high price paid for sticking to your beliefs. On Feb 28, 2006, the Arts section reported on New York Theatre Workshops postponement of possible production of My Name is Rachel Corrie this March. NYTW is a theatre that has supported and championed extraordinary artists from abroad and here at home to do consistently challenging, sometimes radical artistic work. It is a company that has stood apart even through tough financial times by its commitment to daring work. At a time when a climate of fear is insidiously embedded in our culture, it is deeply troubling to witness one of NYCs most adventurous and progressive theatres succumbing in some small part to this culture through the postponement of a play that examines the Palestinian side through Anglo eyes. Censorship and self-censorship has become embedded for some time in US discourse theatrical and not. It is increasingly of vital concern to address and re-dress the issue of censorship as to the wider interrelated effects of funding, access (allowed and disallowed), and the sleeping channels at the helm of many of the wheels of semi-commerce in our midst (good intentions or not).
What artists can do is make through their art work that stands apart and against what is allowed in a state of fear. If we can learn anything from our sister countries who undergo more overt arts censorship, it is that the fight to resist is an urgent one, and one that occurs even at the risk of death. Reinforcing a language of terror or one that bows to terror in its many insidious and co-opted forms (including not letting certain voices to be heard for fear of offending certain members of the audience) reinforces a weak culture. One of arts jobs is to look at societys ills and try to offer a diagnosis at the very least of where we are and why. At best, art goes further than a diagnostic and actually offers the possibility of transformation. At a time when privacy is being stolen from us and our public space is being sold to the highest bidder, does it not behoove our arts presenters to stand up for the multi-valent voice of the artist, and a text that simply, honestly and with compassion presents another view? Even at the risk of potential offense?
As artists and arts presenters, we have a stake in the future, and the society our children live in and their children will live in. If we teach our fellow citizens and future leaders that it is best to suppress a voice from the stage because it may appear as if we are taking a position by presenting it, then we are not only underestimating our audiences our public – and their ability to glean from a work of art its shared humanity, but we are abandoning (or certainly putting on dangerous hold) our essential moral responsibility as citizens and artists to tell stories and allow stories to be told, even if they hurt.