Friday, January 14, 2011

9 Parts of Desire

Saideh Jamshidi

“God created sexual desire in 10 parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one to men.”
Ali ibn Abu Taleb, founder of Shiite sect and fourth leader of the Islamic world after Muhammad.

In the award-winning one-woman show she created, 9 Parts of Desire, Heather Raffo plays the part of an Iraqi Bedouin, an artist, a left-wing political exile, a doctor, and a young girl among others. She details both the ordinary and extraordinary lives of women in Iraq and in the United States.

Each woman in this play has been traumatized, dramatized and scrutinized under Saddam Hussain’s regime and U.S. led occupation. Their voices are vivid, sophisticated, seductive and subdued, collectively portraying suffering and endurance. Yet each one of them searches for her own personal sense of liberation.

The images Heather paints in her one-woman show were inspired by a haunting painting she first encountered at Saddam Art Center in Baghdad. There, in a back room of the museum, Heather saw a painting of a nude woman clinging to a barren tree, her body stilled in the air, her head bowed; but yet, there was a light coming out from behind her, like a sun, she writes.

In her visits to Baghdad, where her father’s family still lives, Heather talked with many women about the complexity of their lives in their crippled city. After the second Iraq war, Heather started writing about the many passionate Iraqi women she had come to know. “Their stories of resilience, determination and love became my one-woman show,” she writes.

I saw video clips of 9 Parts of Desire on Heather’s website and was amazed by the force of energy she puts forward to bring these nine Iraqi women to life. In my interview with her, she speaks with the same sense of liveliness. “I have loved all of the women characters, or they wouldn’t have made it into the play,” she said. “I love the spirit of each character equally in a different way.”

Heather Raffo offers 9 Parts of Desire in 2 formats: concert and full-play. In the concert format, Heather teams up with Amir Elsafar, accomplished jazz trumpeter and Iraqi santoor player. In the full-play, she travels with six other musicians in an elaborate production with lighting, costumes, and a stage set that depicts a river. To mount such a production takes six or more weeks.
Heather and Amir will perform 9 Parts of Desire in concert at the Sentry Theater in Stevens Point, WI, 1800 Northpoint Drive on January 29 at 7:30pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

For a preview, join Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders with Jean Feraca on Tuesday, January 18.

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