Between two worlds

Actor Mikaela Dyke

Kevin Hehir speaks with Mikaela Dyke about Forest Production’s first effort, the story of Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie.

Rachel Corrie was a 23 year old from Olympia, Washington who was run over by an Israeli Defense Forces bulldozer in 2003. She was in the Gaza Strip with the International Solidarty Movement and on the day she was killed she was protesting home demolitions. My Name is Rachel Corrie is a play fashioned from her diary and the e-mails she sent during the three months she was there.

The play stars St. John’s native Mikaela Dyke, who has a performance resumé three feet long, and a fresh MA from University of Toronto in Drama. It’s the first offering from her new company, Forest Productions.

The play has a controversial performance history. It was first mounted in 2005 in London’s Royal Court Theatre, where it was lauded with awards, while the subsequent production at the New York Theatre Workshop the next year, was “postponed indefinitely” after pressure from Jewish groups. It did eventually run, and both the play and Rachel, a documentary film about her death continue to court debate. For instance, five members of the board of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival resigned last summer over the film’s screening and the accompanying Q&A with Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother.

This particular conflict doesn’t get much attention here, and unlike campuses with outspoken Jewish and Arab students groups (Concordia being the most prominent) MUN hasn’t been the flashpoint for protest either. Dyke acknowledges this but suggests the play is relevant in other ways.

“The question of Israel-Palestine isn’t a huge issue here that Newfoundlander think about on a daily basis because we don’t have the communities. But the reason I think it’s interesting to bring this show here is that a lot of Newfoundlanders do international human rights work and social justice work.”

For Dyke the particular question about which side is right but rather, “what is our place as North Americans to go over there, and what do we do? Are we helping? …These are certainly issues that Rachel was dealing with and a lot of those questions come up in the script.”

“A well-written play can make us examine our perspective on real events from an angle we had never considered,” says MUN English professor Jamie Skidmore. “These insights should not only tell us something new about the event, but should force us to consider and examine ourselves”

It’s obvious that this self examination has already begun for Dyke.

“I was reading the script on the subway and I started to cry,” she says. “There are lots of similaritie. She was 23 when she died and I’m 24. …She’s from a small town in North America, she’s interested in this stuff but doesn’t know how it fits together. She even has the same arguments with her parents that I have.”

One of the arguments that hovers over this play and the legacy of Rachel Corrie more generally is whether she was a hero and martyr for the cause of human rights, or if she was naïve. The debate will likely continue forever, but Mikaela Dyke is no naïf. She says the goal of mounting this play isn’t to present one point of view as the correct one, but to spur dialogue.

“I don’t think Rachel lived long enough to really know why she was there,’ she concludes, “I think she was still figuring it out.”

Forest Productions presents My Name is Rachel Corrie at Rabbittown Theatre from Wednesday, February 10th to Saturday, February 13th, 8pm start. Cost is $20. Pay-What-You-Can Matinee on Saturday, February 13th. Featuring Mikaela Dyke. Directed by Jessie Fraser.