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“9 Parts of Desire” tackles reality of war

“9 Parts of Desire,” a USF School of Theatre and Dance together with Art2Action production, will open tonight at 7:30 pm. The production is the first main stage production in the program’s two years on campus and it’s the first main stage production done in collaboration with USF theatre.

Art2Action is a nonprofit organization that has been curating the THIS Bridge, Arab, Middle Eastern & Muslim Artist series on campus.

The show runs Nov. 12-14 and 19-21 at 7:30 pm and Nov. 15 and 22 at 3:00 pm in Theatre 2. There will be post show dialogues with the cast on the 12th, 19th, 20th and the 21st.

“9 Parts of Desire,” which is set in Iraq, focuses on nine women and the challenges they face as the repercussions of war. The story begins during the Gulf War and goes all the way to present time.

Award-winning playwright Heather Raffo wrote and performed the original one-woman production. She was inspired to write the play after going to a modern art museum in Baghdad in 1993.

The New Yorker described the production as  “an example of how art can remake the world.” Raffo’s work addresses how war affects the women who live through it and evokes many questions on the moral issues surrounding warfare in general.

The play runs 90 minutes and is open to the general public, but students receive a discount of $5 off the regular ticket price ($15). USF College of the Arts students receive a free admission with their activity card.

Raffo came to USF and spent a week working with the director and cast, as well as rewriting and rethinking some aspects of the play to ensure it is relevant and adapt it to a 16-person cast.

“Working with Heather was a beautiful experience because you have the ability to ask the playwright, in the same room, their opinions or why they wrote something or what their point of view was on that matter,” said Camille Achinelli, who will play the Doctor in this production.

According to Andrea Assaf, the play’s director, several scenes have been “invented and created as an ensemble for this production although it was rooted in what Heather did in the text,” thanks to Raffo’s guidance and rewriting.

Though the plot is the same, tonight’s production will be completely unique to USF.  The cast hopes the play will offer the audience much more than just an entertaining evening.

Michelle Grace, Nanna in the production, hopes viewers walk away with “a different point of view on the Iraq war.”

The play shows “that not everything is black and white. The media only gives you so much … and you know history is really ‘his-story.’ They’re going to tell you what they want you to know. This play is giving a view that American media didn’t really portray,” said Diana Negron, the actor portraying Huda.

Assaf said when saw the original production in 2004, she knew it was a story that would forever stay with her. Raffo is an artist whose career Assaf “wanted to watch and wanted to have the opportunity to actually collaborate with.”

When Raffo came to USF, she was amazed by how little rewriting was actually needed to keep the story relevant.

“What was illuminating and maybe tragic was that so much of it is perfectly relevant. The things it describes as we see them now are almost out of time in the sense that sometimes you don’t know if a character’s referring to 1991 or 2003 or yesterday,” Assaf. “The fact that these problems haven’t gone away, the fact that this violence is recurring is exactly the issue that we need to look at and wrestle with as a society now.”

The cast members strongly encourage viewers to participate in the post-show dialogues and they looks forward to answering questions and discussing the many lessons showcased in “9 Parts of Desire.”

Despite the many controversies surrounding the war and the significant part the U.S. has played, Achinelli said one thing is clearly represented in the play: “No matter where we are in the world, men and women all bleed the same. We are all people and we all, although some worse, share common hardships in life.”