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Rada brings Corrie’s story to life

By Staff | Apr 15, 2008

Julie Rada played the title role in My Name is Rachel Corrie Saturday at First Christian Church in Estherville.

The audience was small but the message was powerful as Julie Rada presented her one-woman production, My name is Rachel Corrie, Saturday at First Christian Church in Estherville.

Corrie died March 16, 2003, when she sat atop a pile of earth between a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza strip and an Israeli bulldozer intent on knocking it down. According to eyewitness accounts, the bulldozer driver looked directly into Corrie’s eyes and then drove over the American from Olympia, Wash. Since Corrie died five days before the United States attacked Iraq, it was difficult for her family to retrieve her body and bring it back to the U.S.

Entries from Corrie’s journal were published in London then later Rachel’s sister Sarah sent some of Rachel’s writings to a playwright who developed her story into the play.

As the seventh stage incarnation of Rachel Corrie, Rada draws on both the young, sweet girl and the gritty young woman, who though hardened, does not give up home of helping the Palestinian people held captive in their own homeland by the Israelis.

The production plays back and forth between the young Rachel of the past and the Rachel headed for Gaza and her death. As the play progresses, the two Rachels, who seem initially like two characters represented by Rada, merge into one.

The language at times is frank and unencumbered of unnecessary etiquette as Rada draws Corrie’s jagged emotions from the playscript to the stage.

Following are some of the more moving lines:

n “The question is where to start the story.” We might wonder where Corrie’s story really begins and where it ends and then we really doesn’t matter, because in time, we are living within the young woman’s mind as the play unfolds.

n “Everybody must feel safe.” That was a rule in Rachel’s classroom when she was a small child. She realizes that rule is something that everyone could live by.

n When asked in fifth grade what she wanted to be when she grew up, Rachel said, “Everything from wandering poet to first female president.”

n Toward the end of her life, Corrie makes a statement hauntingly like Dr. Martin Luther King’s Mountain Top speech that he made less than 24 hours before he was assassinated in Memphis. “It is easy to make the journey. You will know it when the time comes.”

Rada held a “talk back” following her performance, something she tries to do after every time on the stage. One question that everyone was eager to know the answer to was how she could memorize the nearly two-hour playscript.

“I just repeat it over and over to myself, that’s all,” Rada said simply.

She sees the reason for the play as “to facilitate community dialogue” about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Rada also explained the complicated person that Rachel Corrie really was.

“Rachel Corrie has been to some people a martyr and to some people a terrorist,” Rada said. She said the Rachel Corrie that she tries to present on stage is a person who was creative, sensitive, smart, funny, and passionate.

“She just felt for people who were working against odds,” Rada said. “This is a person who felt deeply about the particular thing. This became her cause. We probably wouldn’t know her name if she hadn’t died.”

Rachel’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, were both born and raised in Iowa and attended Drake University.

For further information:

n Let Me Stand Alone — The Journals of Rachel Corrie, W.W. Norton & Co., publishers.

n Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, by Dr. Alice Rothchild.

n To Jerusalem and Back, by Saul Bellow. Penguin Classics. This is a book about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from the Israeli perspective.