‘Name’ flames

When not adding his lugubrious presence and bassoon-like tones to the filming of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Alan Rickman is moonlighting as a location scout. With the next gap in his schedule, he’s Manhattan-bound to select one of the theaters jockeying for his Royal Court production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.”

Not surprisingly, New York Theater Workshop, which had been due to house the play before controversially opting for a last-minute “postponement,” is not in contention.

Subject to finalizing a deal, the Gotham run will commence in mid-October with Megan Dodds repeating her radiant, unsentimental perf as the 23-year-old American idealist who died in a nonviolent protest for peace in Gaza.

The current London run — the play’s first commercial outing after two seasons at the Court — has just been extended for two weeks, until May 21, following strong reviews and business.

David Johnson, who with Virginia Buckley is producing the play at the 850-seat Playhouse Theater, told Variety it is selling out on weekends and routinely receives standing ovations, still a rare occurrence in Britain, especially in nonmusical theater. A U.K. tour will start in August at the Edinburgh Festival, with Dublin and Sheffield dates already confirmed.

Although the play is one-sided — it’s a monologue based on Corrie’s impassioned diaries and emails — its singular perspective on the Middle East has provoked no irrational protests. The only group leafleting on opening night politely encouraged cyclists to join the 2006 Peace Cycle through 12 countries to Jerusalem.

Teen connections

Rachel Corrie once presciently added up things she had — “eight black ballpoint pens/sharp teeth/beady eyes/and hope.” Equally enlivening expectation for the future brims forth in three startlingly well-acted new plays at the National Theater.

What distinguishes Deborah Gearing‘s lyrical road to oblivion, “Burn”; Enda Walsh‘s matter-of-fact horror story, “Chatroom”; and Mark Ravenhill‘s riotously funny study of sexuality, “Citizenship,” is that they were written for teenagers as part of the National’s trailblazing Shell Connections program.

This is an education initiative with all pious sense of duty removed. Over the last 12 years, the National has commissioned playwrights as diverse as Bryony Lavery, Patrick Marber, Peter Gill and Dario Fo to write plays for teens. Teachers and youth-group leaders across the country stage the plays, with the cream of the crop invited to perform at the National.

Nicholas Hytner was so impressed with the program, he handed three of this year’s plays to director Anna Mackmin. Newly cast with arrestingly good young professionals, Mackmin’s needle-sharp productions, running in rep through June 3, are a serious hit. And the audience demographic is the stuff of marketing dreams: 60% of ticket buyers are under 18.

The only downer is that Connections is under threat. Shell U.K., a sponsor for four years to the tune of £250,000 per annum, is pulling out and reconsidering funding the National in a different way. Connections director Suzy Graham-Adriani is, to put it mildly, on the lookout for a sponsor with the right credentials. “One who would support new writing without compromise and appreciate the breadth of the work we’re doing with young people,” she says.

New plays from Doug Lucie and Gregory Burke and a musical by Debbie Wiseman and Don Black are among the next Connections cycle hitting the National in July. The theater will meet this year’s costs, but a sponsor must be found to save it through 2007 and beyond. Supporting nationwide creativity and youth development with title rights beside one of the U.K.’s most prestigious arts brands — who wouldn’t leap to fill the gap?

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