When Nine Parts of Desire premiered in New York City in the early 2000s, Gloria Steinem wrote, “The female half of Iraq has come to America.” It is with this philosophy in mind that Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College presents Heather Raffo’s play about the lives and stories of nine women, all of whom have a relationship to the physical, spiritual, and emotional spaces of modern Iraq. The play opens Thursday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m. and runs Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, at 8 p.m. The final performance occurs Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m. All performances occur in the Dungeon Theatre in the Light Fine Arts Building on Kalamazoo College’s campus.
The play strives to celebrate the lives and identities of these women by complicating the archetypal portrayal of their country and its citizens. Each character seems to walk on a knife’s edge between contrasts—freedom and containment, tenacity and docility, knowledge and naivety, danger and desire—and each character tells a story of how these tensions have dictated her life.
None of Raffo’s characters are oppressed in a simple, two-dimensional way. Each woman approaches the world differently, and their stories and struggles are distinctly their own. What connects the women to each other and to the audience is far deeper than a shared experience of time and place. It is love–the negotiation and exploration of its many manifestations–that makes the piece cohesive and universal. In the play, one character muses, “It is the same, anywhere you live. if you love like an Iraqi woman. If you love like you can’t breathe.”
Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College invites you to come bear witness to these stories of struggle and triumph. In post-911 America, where ignorance and discrimination, and even hatred, often stand in the way of human connection, it is essential that we open our hearts, our ears, and our to these stories. In the words of Raffo herself, “Come. Now you sign the witness book.”
Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and $15 for other adults. Please call 269.337.7333 or visit the Festival Playhouse website for more information.
Text by Jane Huffman ’15. Photo by Emily Salswedel ’16.