Even now, 13 years after her death at age 23, few names are more controversial in Thurston County than that of Olympia activist Rachel Corrie. Corrie died in a Gaza combat zone under the tread of an Israeli bulldozer. The driver of that vehicle insisted he never saw her. Fellow protestors from the International Solidarity Movement characterized her passing as the deliberate murder of a protestor acting as a human shield.
Corrie, a student at The Evergreen State College, kept a journal. In 2005, passages from Corrie’s journal and her emails to her parents were adapted into a stage play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, by actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner. Rickman then directed the play at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Remarkably, a full production of that play has never been mounted in Olympia—until now. “For people who knew her and missed her, and also for people who are passionate about her death,” says Jeff Painter, director of the story for Harlequin Productions, “this has been a really fresh wound.”
Painter first read the play in 2015. “I knew her story, or at least I thought I did. I picked it up and had a really emotional experience when I read it. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in a public place before.” Painter approached actor Kira Batcheller, last seen as Julia in Harlequin’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. “I thought it’d be perfect for her…but we were still talking about it as a someday kind of thing.”
Then Rickman died in January 2016, and Painter read a quote from Rickman: “Actors are agents of change…(A) piece of theater…can make a difference. It can change the world.” That led Painter to commit to producing an Olympia production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie within a year. “I’m just about barely gonna make it,” he notes, chuckling.
“The power of this play is in its ability to heal,” Painter adds. “Since it portrays her humanness most of all, it gives people an opportunity to connect to her in a way they might not have been able to connect to her story before. They’ve seen her in news articles, and they reacted to it through the Israel-Palestine conflict and not to her as a person.”
Before producing the play, Painter met with Corrie’s parents. “They’ve been really supportive, and they’re very excited we’re doing the show,” Painter says. “We’re gonna keep working with them throughout the production for sure. The second time I met with them, I went up to The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice offices…Their window looks right out on the Harlequin marquee.”
An Olympia production has been a long time coming, but perhaps some things are just meant to be.
What: My Name Is Rachel Corrie
Where: Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, Jan. 19 – Feb. 11;
2 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 22 – Feb. 5
How much: $25-$41
Learn more: 360-786-0151 | Harlequin Productions