Saturday, April 01, 2006

Art, Theater and Censorship

It's a controversial topic, the conflicts that take place day to day in the Middle East. The conflict of Palestinian and Israeli fought out seemingly so far away from us here in the United States. But is it really that far?

Of course you're asking what this has to do with Theater, Art or Censorship. You might have seen the story in the news, of a theater group who was to do "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" a 90 minute play based on the diary and writings of activist Rachel Corrie. Rachel was killed by a by an Israeli Army bulldozer preparing to demolish a Palestinian home in the Gaza strip, in March of 2003. She was only 23 years old. After her death,Yasir Arafat quickly declared her a martyr, clearly aligning her with the Palestinians, while others in the pro-Israeli camp denounced her. Add in her involvement with the International Solidarity Movement, an organization that recruits people to serve as human shields, and you have the makings of a very politically charged, controversial story.

"My Name Is Rachel Corrie" opened at Playhouse Theater in London's West End Thursday, instead of it's scheduled premiere in New York City. A Decision was made by New York Theater Workshop that the production should be put on indefinite hold, due to the show's controversial nature. Most disturbing is there was no protests, no rioting, no reason for them to make this decision. It appears to be an act of self censorship.

Think of all the shows that show us controversial points of view. "The Sound of Music" portrays the occupation of Austria by Nazis, "Grease" deals with teen sex ... Pregnancy, drinking, and smoking. "Chicago" is a "tale of Murder, Greed, Seduction and adultery ... all the things near and dear to our hearts", "Guys and Dolls" features a cast made up of gamblers and criminals, as does "Three Penny Opera", "Rent" deals with Aids, Homosexuality and drug abuse.

Even the 'Classics' are not free from controversy ... "Romeo and Juliet" features murder, premarital sex, and suicide. "Macbeth" has murder and witches. Oedipus Rex deals with incest.

Art and Theater is supposed to present interesting viewpoints, to make us think. What good is Theater that is safe and boring? Theater provides a introduction to other people's lives, and it can be a jumping off point for interesting discussions about life and the world around us. It is disappointing that fear keeps a story from being told.

"My Name Is Rachel Corrie" has been featured in other blogs as well as in the news. To read more on this subject (There are a variety of viewpoints contained in the following links):

CBS News (AP)
The independent
NY Times
United Press International

Playgoer Blog: On Censorship, Megan Dodds

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