Iraqi-American Playwright to Give Performing Lecture
 of Award-winning 9 Parts of Desire

January 17, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Award-winning playwright and performer Heather Raffo will provide a lecture performance of her critically acclaimed play 9 Parts of Desire at Illinois Wesleyan University from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, February 3, at Beckman Auditorium in The Ames Library
(1 Ames Plaza East, Bloomington). The event is free and open to the public.

The New York Times called Raffo’s one-woman show on the lives of Iraqi women “a powerful collective portrait” and The New Yorker judged the play “an example of how art can remake the world.” Famed feminist author Gloria Steinem declared of Raffo’s play and performance, “the female half of Iraq has come to America.”

In 9 Parts of Desire, Raffo, whose father is Iraqi and mother is American, gives a portrait of the extraordinary and ordinary lives of a cross-section of Iraqi women: a sexy painter, a radical Communist, doctors, exiles, wives and lovers. According to Raffo, the work delves into the many conflicting aspects of what it means to be a woman in the age-old war zone that is Iraq, and her solo performance embodying the larger argument of what liberation means for each woman.

Raffo’s lecture at Illinois Wesleyan will include several monologues from the play and discussion of her artistic process. The event is an extraordinary opportunity, said Associate Professor Alison Sainsbury, chair of the English Department at Illinois Wesleyan. “We teach our students to transmute their experiences into art, and Heather Raffo has done that. She has taken her travels back to Iraq and created from them a play that speaks to Iraqi and American cooperation and understanding. It is a terrific example for our students of what can be accomplished.”

The event comes to Illinois Wesleyan as a combined effort of the University’s International Studies Program, Women’s Studies Program, the English Department and the School of Theatre Arts. Raffo’s is making time for the Illinois Wesleyan performance lecture during her preparations for the NEXT Theatre in Chicago, where 9 Parts of Desire will open for a month-long run in May. 

A recipient of a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Special Commendation and the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Fellowship for 9 Parts of Desire, Raffo has also been honored with a 2005 Lucille Lortel award for Best Solo show as well as an Outer Critics Circle Nomination and a Drama League nomination for Outstanding Performance. 

Raffo has been performing her original work since 2003, when 9 Parts of Desire opened in the United Kingdom in Edinburgh. It then moved to London's Off-West End, where critics hailed it as one of the five best plays of the year. The play came to New York in 2004, premiering at the Manhattan Ensemble Theater, where it ran for nine sold-out months.  In 2005, the play began touring the U.S. at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, then in Seattle and Philadelphia.

A graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of San Diego, Ruffo studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She has appeared as Sarah Woodruff in the world premiere of The French Lieutenant's Woman at the Fulton Opera House, in the Off-Broadway performance of Over The River and Through the Woods and in the Off-Broadway/National Tour of Macbeth (Lady Macbeth), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mistress Page) and The Rivals.

For questions, contact Sainsbury at (309) 556-3165.

 Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960