“My Name is Rachel Corrie” shines at the Lab Series Festival

Virginia Players’ adaption of this one-woman show is captivating and relevant

The Virginia Players’ performed an adaptation of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” as a part of the Lab Series Festival held from Dec. 4 to 6 at Helms Theater. The play is a compilation of the words of American activist Rachel Corrie written during her time in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. Put together by Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner, the one-woman show portrays what it means to enter a contested area with a certain preconceived frame of mind.

What is most striking is the play is written in a voice much like those at the University: the voice of a confused, emotionally sensitive, fallible college student, faced with choices that could affect her tremendously.

Annika Schunn’s performance stood out the most in this adaption of “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” The play is decidedly better in the second half as the audience begins to understand the inner turmoil Rachel faces as she shares homes with Palestinian families denied the comfort of safety within their own houses. Schunn does a spectacular job translating how Rachel’s mindset changes from optimistic to distressed. Through the course of the play, she has the audience laughing at her interpretation of Rachel’s antics with scenes like stopping to think about Israel and Palestine from firsthand accounts and simply wondering about the purpose of this conflict. She keeps the audience engrossed in her acting that time seems to fly by during the show.

The ending of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” comes abruptly, leaving the audience fully aware of what happens to Rachel yet unable to grapple with her sudden departure. The performance was followed by a panel discussion composed of Schunn, director Nora Zahn and representatives from Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine, Hoos for Israel and J-Street.

The discussion seemed to only cover the surface of what is a deeply-rooted conflict between Israel and Palestine. Nevertheless, the play and discussion were only stepping stones for the audience in terms of learning about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Due to the great work of the actress and director, the audience was successfully prompted to think about a side of the conflict they would not typically be exposed to, and left wondering what role America has to play in world politics.

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