Free Speech and Non-Profit Theater: The Rachel Corrie Announcement

Garrett Eisler, at Playgoer, led the New York theater community in its uprising a few months back over the cancellation of the play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.” Today he offers a sharp interpretation of the news that the play will be staged at the Minetta Lane in October:

This seems a perfectly fitting venue. The Minetta Lane is a beautiful small space, it’s in the Village, with a politically sympathetic audience built in, and which also attracts the kind of adventuresome tourists that made the play such a success on the West End. Seems like a good choice.

And so the guessing game is over. Who knows what took so long. Waiting on the Public and other high profile non-profits? They must have passed…. But all along, a commercial mounting has seemed the only way to go with this controversial piece of material. No funders, no grants, no board. Just a committed producing team who doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Could it be that such a model is the last best bet for guarantees of free speech in the theatre?

The big question a commercial production raises, of course, is… what about that “context”? One thing that most distinguishes the experience of going to a commercial production as opposed to a company is the absence of any supporting materials or, usually, post-show talkbacks. Commercial producers are great believers in letting the play stand for itself because…it’s cheaper! Non-profits may get special grants and funding to cover all the dramaturgy and events they do around a play. So it will be interesting to see if Hammerstein and Pariseau make any gesture toward contextualizing at all.