Tensions Mount as Tech Approaches and the Corrie/CATF Controversy Hits the News

Plays have their own momentum. They are pleasant enough to consider artistically when there’s time to speculate. But as curtain time nears, nerves set in – the need to respect what’s fixed about a performance takes increasing precedent. We’re 4 days away from tech on EITHER OR. We promised the actors a frozen text last Saturday before their day off. Yesterday we gave them a new ending; not a whole lot of new lines to memorize, but enough in the way of new pages as to ratchet up the tension level another notch. This morning at ten we take a look at the whole play again in a run-through/walk through. We’re still not on stage yet – it’s the second day of light focus. Today we’ll be best able to evaluate where we are with respect to the shape of the protagonist’s journey. Yesterday was a critical day of adjustments and tweaks, many of them actor generated; some of the suggestions were repeats that hadn’t found their way into the new version that was given to actors over the weekend. So lots of cleaning up, tightening up, all under the pressure of the time clock.

Plenty of other concerns too. Keep reading →

Our sound designer might have mono. His assistant is bringing sound work in today, although we were hoping to hear it the day before. A brief kurfluffle there, but we know the designer is talented and extremely responsive. We hope he’s given himself enough time for adjustments.

Other tensions: where to put our new extension ladder? It won’t fit back stage on James Kronzer’s gorgeous but hulking set (it’s an impressive nod to German fascist architecture so hulking’s appropriate). We need too much space backstage for actors and their quick change stations. So will the new ladder, some 18 feet long, at least, fit under duvatine, against the wall in one of the balconies? Will we get permission to stow the ladder there? We need it every night to check for blown lamps. Ah, details…

So as this tension mounts in advance of next week’s previews, the countdown for summer productions of controversial plays about the Middle East marches on as well. Do check out this recent article in the Washington Jewish Week. It quotes folks in the community angry about the CATF production. One of those interviewed is Theater J council member, Garry Grossman. A wonderful guy with strong views and a superb theater-going history, he’s sharply critical of the play and the upcoming production. We’re having coffee tomorrow. Here’s the article, with some of my excerpts below.

From the Washington Jewish Week
Headline: Should anti-Israel play be staged?
As some protest, theater defends decision to stage ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie’ in festival

by Gabe Ross

A controversial one-woman play about an American killed in Gaza will be staged this summer during the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and some longtime ticket holders are objecting.

.…”I believe this was not a good choice of a play…. I’m not suggesting that every play to be performed has to be balanced, but if one side has a view that a play is completely inaccurate and biased, then I think that it is unlikely to generate a discussion of good will,” said Garry Grossman, an attorney from Bethesda. Grossman, 56, who has attended every play at CATF for the past nine years, will not be attending this year.

Read more by going to http://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/main.asp?FromHome=1&TypeID=1&ArticleID=6996&SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4

Here’s what Ari Roth, “director of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Theater J” has to say: He “agrees with Garry Grossman’s artistic assessment [about the play’s weaknesses], though he supports Herendeen’s decision to produce the play. “We vetted this play so thoroughly and decided it didn’t meet artistic standards,” said Roth.

“Nonetheless, he called the production “a decent, mediocre play that is deserving of a staging for all of its faults and for all of its weaknesses and nobody in the Jewish community has any business beig scared of it.” Roth encourages people who are upset by the play’s topic to go judge it for themselves.

“I’m really supportive of Ed giving voice to it and letting all of us discover what it has to say and all the ways it falls short,” he said. “If you got a bone to pick with the play, pick it with the play by seeing what it’s all about and talking back to that play.”

Theater J, for its part, this summer will look at Corrie in a different way. It will be presenting Chasing Justice/Seeking Truth: Musings on the Parallel (But Radically Different) Lives and Deaths of Rachel Corrie and Daniel Pearl as part of its Voices from a Changing Middle East: A Festival, to be held in June and July.

“We’re not at all making a parallel of Rachel Corrie’s death and Daniel Pearl’s death,” said Roth, who added that the play will attempt to take a reading of the contemporary American Jewish community.

The production will examine the Jewish community’s “struggling with issues of moral relativism, unflattering portraits of ourselves and Israel and our need to put in context all the unflattering portraits of Israel.”

The play will touch upon the Jewish reaction to such issues as the recently published book by Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the Tony Kushner-penned screenplay of Munich, and My Name is Rachel Corrie.

Roth, meanwhile, acknowledges that My Name is Rachel Corrie portrays Israel in an unfavorable light. “So what? Are we big enough to take it artistically? This is not legislation in Congress, this is the diary of a woman who was run over by a bulldozer,” he said. “Should we hear what she had to say? Why not?”

More tomrrow…