Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Photos by Russ Rowland. Projections by L Wilson-Spiro. 

I’m proud to say that I’m in the midst of one of the most rewarding and difficult artistic experiences I’ve ever had - playing Rachel in the one woman play - MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE. The journey I’ve taken to finally be able to produce and perform in this play has been long and arduous.

I first heard about Rachel Corrie when most everyone else did - in mid 2003 when her death was announced world-wide. I remember that this was the first time I had ever heard of “non-violent direct action” as a tactic toward bringing change. I had no idea that were activists with the courage to stand up to tanks and bulldozers. I researched her story and grieved for her. I think this might have been the first time I thought about activism for myself.

Later that year, a theater company I had helped to start - Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego - decided to present a world premiere play as its first production. It was called REMAINS, written by Seema Sueko, which was based on a true story about an American of Pakistani & Japanese descent going to Israel for a college program. Seema decided to use Rachel Corrie’s story as an inspiration and dramatized her true story with a fictional death of the character. The action of the play took place after the lead character died and the remains of her life - journals and clothing - were shipped back to her mother. We see this character come to life through the reading of the journals, bouncing back and forth between the past and the present, highlighting the wonderful people she met and also deep racism that she experienced. As a producer I was very proud of the show, and as an actor I was a little envious. This character was written to be non-white, so I would never get to tell this story as a performer. But I was so glad to see the play produced and received so well, especially as the company’s first venture.

So you can imagine what it was like to learn about the play MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE, constructed in much the same way. With my newfound passion for activism through theater, I knew I was destined to make the show happen.

Fast forward to now... I had NO idea how challenging it would be to perform a 90 minute play with just myself on the stage. Putting aside the line memorization (which is crazy!) it’s both thrilling and daunting to just have myself to rely on, to carry the show with energy and focus. No one to rely upon but myself.

But the biggest challenge has been the boycotts and protests.

This play touches on some very deep issues regarding the violence in Gaza - namely, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes in the occupied part of the Israeli/Palestinian region. By having a play that is sympathetic to the plights of those people, we’ve received angry emails from community members and longtime patrons calling for the cancelation of the play. People have said that what were doing is vile and anti Semitic and that we’re glorifying a murderer. Rachel Corrie never harmed a soul.

Though people like to think of the play as a historical play, it’s not. It’s a portrait of a girl who puts herself in harm’s way to bring peace to a war-torn region. Even the character says that her experiences are not the reality - she acknowledges that she is seeing one angle based on privilege and locale. And she also acknowledges that there’s a “distinction between Israel’s policies as a state and all Jewish people.”

Many Jewish people who have seen the show have said that it was not nearly as controversial as they had feared, and one proudly Pro-Israel gentleman even said, “This is exactly what I hoped the play would be.” But it’s still challenging for people to set aside their concerns for 90 minutes to hear an alternative point of view. As one patron shared, seeing a single performer share one side of an issue for that long can be alienating. Just the other day, in the first 20 minutes of the play we had a patron shout “This is insane!” at me multiple times and then later storm out, leaving this little note for us in the lobby before she slammed the door behind her. I was left stunned on the stage, as this happened right to me as I was performing.

This is the note left by the woman who shouted at me during my performance

We’ve had deep conversations at the end of each play where the audience members get to talk about their experiences with the subject matter and their impressions about the questions the play raises. And this is the most rewarding part of the whole thing - hearing people from all sides TALK and not just ignore and rebuff what the other side has to say.

But all of the conversation in the world is useless if people aren’t able to learn about the show. Many reviewers have refused to critique the show - our press rep said that she received significant pushback when she sought reviewers. But audiences have been making reviews of their own, most of them very positive (and some of them incendiary.) You can see those reviews here: https://www.show-score.com/off-off-broadway-shows/my-name-is-rachel-corrie

We are in the final week of shows, so if this post has piqued your interest, I would absolutely love for you to come. Here’s my show schedule:

Wed, May 9 - 12pm

Wed, May 9 - 8pm

Fri, May 11 - 3pm

Sat, May 12 - 8pm

Sun, May 13 - 4:30pm

Tickets range from $10-$30, with free tickets to AEA members who show their cards at the door. Tickets can be purchased at www.TheSeeingPlace.com.

Photos by Russ Rowland. Projections by L Wilson-Spiro. 

Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

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