I WAS A STUDENT at Evergreen in 2003, the year Rachel Corrie was killed. She died in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, killed by an Israeli tank while defending a Palestinian home. And because Corrie, too, was an Evergreen student, born and raised in Olympia, the community's reaction was immediate collective outrage.
But I didn't know Corrie, and at the time I really wasn't too interested–based on what I knew of her, she sounded like another of the self-important activists who plop out of the Evergreen assembly line each year. I figured that in dying, she'd achieved the martyrdom she must've been looking for.
It took the theatrical adaptation of her story to make me reconsider that callous knee-jerk reaction.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie, produced here by Three Good Friends, is composed entirely of lines taken from Rachel Corrie's letters and journals, from childhood through her brief adulthood (she was 23 when she died). And while there are a few predictable lefty punchlines about the oppressive Israeli state, the focus is more on Rachel than on her politics, tracking her development as a writer and activist. Corrie was a strong, self-critical writer, prone to fits of wild idealism tempered by doubt. While some of her writing is embarrassing in the way only a girl's private journal entries can be, her sincerity and thoughtfulness are clear, down to her understanding of how her privileged status as a white American could best be leveraged.
This production's director, Megan Kate Ward, made the generally effective decision to cast two actresses to play what was originally written as one role–because the journal entries adapted here were written over a period of years, this avoids the invariably annoying predicament of asking one actress to play a character at different ages. As Young Rachel, Madeleine Rogers gives a poised, intelligent performance, staying on just the right side of precocious and thereby avoiding the cloying quality that makes Amanda Jensen's performance the weaker of the two. One regrets that Ward couldn't resist occasionally asking her actresses to speak in unison, but otherwise the casting works well.
The show is ultimately a character study, of a girl whose deeply felt political beliefs led her to risk more than most armchair pundits ever will. It is not a perfect production, but it is an important one.