For example Rachel Corrie: the role of theatre in, and as, an activist project
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Rachel Corrie was a young American woman who died at the age of twenty-three in Gaza in 2003. She was killed when an Israeli Occupation Force bulldozer ran over her while she was defending a Palestinian house from demolition. Her martyr's death, combined with the force of her descriptions of her experiences as an activist in Palestine, not only provoked response from other activists; it became material for a number of theatrical projects, among them productions by the Royal Court Theatre in London, Bread and Puppet Theatre in the US, and in a production I recently wrote and directed here in New Zealand. This thesis considers the example of Rachel Corrie's activism in Palestine and the theatrical performances it engendered in order to examine the role of theatre in and as an activist project. The theatre is an important component of the ongoing movement for social change. It assembles temporary communities and it portrays issues in ways that are both accessible and open to debate. But theatricality is just as often a key component of activist actions outside the theatre building: in street performances and demonstrations, and also in the way some activists can be seen to pursue their political objectives on a daily basis. Finally, the theatre is a material act of production which can challenge the dominant model of production and thus has the potential to be become an activist project as itself. As a result of my analyses of this material, I hope to provide a framework of understanding both for myself and others, of the likely role of theatre in and as an activist project, and this understanding will be of assistance in the cultural task of shifting beliefs in the movement for social change. The key theorists used in this thesis are Walter Benjamin and Raymond Williams.