My Name is Rachel Corrie changed my life. Radically. I was a junior in college, studying acting, studying abroad in London, and generally being 21 years old when two friends convinced me to go to the show with them. They were activists, a concept strangely new to me, and had been participating in illegal banner drops on campus for the past three years to mark the anniversary of Rachel’s death. I had no idea who she was or how she had died when I walked into the theater.
To say I connected to the play on a personal level is an understatement. Hearing the journal wonderings, half-poems, and personal writings of a woman not much older than I who had given up everything in the pursuit of peace and common ground was chilling. It exploded my notion of who I was in the world, or who I could be, and shed a stark light on the kinds of stories I wanted to hear and participate in telling. For the first time, I recognized the power of the theater as a forum and as a catalyst for change.
My personal and professional path can all be looked at as stemming from that experience. I began producing work because it became more important to me to influence what was onstage than to be onstage myself, and I realized what I believe to be the best use of my brain in this field—to relentlessly question and strive for the theater’s relevance to the most important concerns of our time.
Manda Martin Manda is the Associate Artistic Director for Culture Project, where she directs Women Center Stage, an initiative committed to promoting women artists and celebrating the contributions of women to social justice. The Women Center Stage 2012 Festival features 40+ performances from March 8 through April 7 at The Living Theatre.