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Urbi et Orbi

The Wilma Theater Presents Heather Raffo's Nine Parts of Desire

January 2006 PHILADELPHIA – The Wilma Theater’s Artistic Directors Blanka Zizka and Jiri Zizka are proud to welcome to Philadelphia two extraordinary theater artists, Iraqi-American playwright Heather Raffo and London-based director Kate Saxon, for the Philadelphia Premiere of Heather Raffo’s Nine Parts of Desire. In this stunning and compelling mosaic of the voices of ordinary Iraqi women, playwright Heather Raffo brings to life personal stories from nine women of different ages, backgrounds and outlooks, all united by one common theme; their strength. Among them are a free-spirited artist who paints nudes and is curator of Saddam Hussein’s art center, a political exile in London, a New Yorker of Iraqi descent who is glued to the TV news, a young girl who dances to American music and is enamored by all things Western, a beleaguered doctor, and a Bedouin woman in search of love. Beyond politics, veils and war, this daring one-woman theatrical tour de force celebrates the vitality, endurance and diversity of the women of Iraq whose stories are not often told on TV or in the newspapers.

A critically acclaimed Off-Broadway hit which ran for nine sold-out months, Heather Raffo’s Nine Parts of Desire was hailed as “an example of how art can remake the world” by The New Yorker, earning nominations for the 2005 Lucille Lortel Award and Outer Critics Circle Award. Heather Raffo’s Nine Parts of Desire begins previews February 1st, opens on February 8th and closes on March 12th, 2006. Tickets are $10 to $49 and are available at the Wilma Theater Box Office (265 South Broad Street), online at or by phone at 215-546-7824.

Raffo, whose father is Iraqi and mother is American, first visited Iraq in 1974 when she was four years old. That experience, as well as occasional visits from relatives, strengthened her ties to her heritage. When she returned in 1993, a visit Raffo describes as “a beautiful and profoundly life changing experience,” she was inspired by a painting she discovered at the Saddam Art Center. Amidst so many billboard-size portraits of Saddam Hussein, here was a painting of a nude woman clinging to a barren tree with her head bowed and a light in front of her, like a sun. Raffo took a photo of the painting in hopes of finding the artist, only to discover she had been killed during an American-led bombing raid in Baghdad earlier that year.

Raffo began to interview dozens of Iraqi women both inside and outside of the country and continued to collect their stories over the past decade. “The memories of the country and of my family rooted deep in me and continued to tug at me as something I needed to share with the world,” she says. “I did not do formal interviews with people. I went and lived with them and loved them and collected their stories.” Heather Raffo’s Nine Parts of Desire (which shares a title with but is not based on the 1996 book by Geraldine Brooks) is Raffo’s first play. It premiered in 2003 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was later presented at Bush Theatre in London where The Independent heralded it as “One of the five best plays of 2003”. In New York, the play was performed as a reading at The Public Theater as part of their New Work Now! series in the Spring of 2004 and then went on to be presented at The Manhattan Ensemble Theater.

In The Wilma Theater’s production, actress Jacqueline Antaramian will portray the nine diverse women, forming a complex portrait of mothers, daughters, wives and lovers. Antaramian’s New York theater credits include Julius Caesar (Broadway Company, Belasco Theatre), The Immigrant (Dodger Stages), Wrong Mountain (Eugene O’Neill Theatre), Pride's Crossing (Lincoln Center), and The Wild Duck (Bulldog Theatre Co.). She spent eight seasons with The Denver Center Theatre Company, and has worked at several other regional theaters. Her film and TV credits include The Siege, Third Watch, and Law & Order. Directing the production is

London-based freelance director Kate Saxon, who is also the Associate Director of the theatre company Shared Experience. Saxon first worked with Heather Raffo in 2000, casting her in The French Lieutenant's Woman at the Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Raffo later asked her to work on the script development of Nine Parts of Desire, which culminated in Saxon directing Raffo in a reading of the play at The Public Theater. Scheduling difficulties, however, prevented Saxon from directing the production at Manhattan Ensemble Theater. “Now,” says Saxon, “the Wilma has given me the chance to stage a new production and I can’t wait!”

New York-based designer Anne Patterson has designed the set and costumes, with lighting design by Philadelphia designer John Hoey (winner of the 2005 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Lighting Design), music and sound score by London composer Adam Cork, and original Iraqi composition by Amir ElSaffar, an Iraqi musician currently living in the United States.

The play’s title comes from a Muslim text, the 100 Maxims of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth leader of the Islamic community after the Prophet Muhammed and first Imam of Shi'ite Islam. : "God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one to men."

Heather Raffo’s Nine Parts of Desire

Dates: February 1 to March 12, 2006
Opening night is Wednesday, February 8.

The Wilma Theater 265 S. Broad Street (Broad and Spruce), Philadelphia

Schedule: Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. (additional 2pm matinee on Wed, Feb. 15)
Fridays at 8:00 p.m. Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m. (no 2pm show on Sat, Feb. 4)
Sundays at 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. (no 7:30pm shows on Feb. 5 & 19)

Prices: $10.00 - $49.00, with special discounts available for seniors, students, educators, and groups of 10 or more.

Tickets: Phone: 215-546-7824, Fax: 215-893-0895
Online:, E-mail:,
In person: 265 S. Broad Street (Broad and Spruce), Philadelphia.
The Box Office is open Monday-Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

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To request more information and interviews, please contact: Megan Wendell, Canary Promotion
office: 215-242-6393, email:

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