Posted by Shadi Matar on January 22, 2016 in Blog

Alan_Rickman_BAM_2011-01-15_n3.jpgThis past week, actor and filmmaker Alan Rickman died at the age of 69 years old from cancer. Rickman is remembered for his iconic roles in such films as the Harry Potter series, Dogma, and The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. But in the Arab American community, Rickman is also remembered for his role as editor and director of the 2005 play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” based on the life of the pro-Palestinian peace activist Rachel Corrie.

Rachel was only 23 years old when she was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while working in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” has been shown on every continent except Antarctica and Rickman’s work on the play has helped continue the memory of Rachel Corrie long after her death.

The play is comprised of Rachel’s diary entries and emails sent home to her family while she was in Palestine during her senior year of college. Corrie had been working with the ISM in Gaza to counter illegal Israeli home demolitions.

Rickman began his involvement with the project when he brought a copy of Rachel’s last emails to journalist Katharine Viner to recruit her to help transform Rachel’s words into a play. The play began its two-time run at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2005 and subsequently won the Theatregoer’s Choice Awards for Best Director and Best New Play.

In 2006, the planned New York debut of the play at the New York Theater Workshop was cancelled by the theater’s artistic director James Nicola. Nicola said that showing the play would “be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn’t want to take.” Nicola cited polling he had conducted of the local Jewish community in New York before reaching his conclusion. 

Rickman fired back at the decision saying, “This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences – all of us are the losers.” Ultimately, the play was shown in New York at the Minetta Lane Theatre and subsequently all across the world from New York to Haifa.

Rachel’s father, Craig Corrie, recently spoke about Rickman’s legacy and his involvement in the play that featured his daughter, saying that “[Rickman] shepherded it through those first four theatre runs, they managed to capture Rachel’s energy, her humor and her ability to question herself, as well as the world.”

When asked if the play would be able to live up to expectation, Rickman once said, “If it doesn’t have risk it is not worth doing”.