Play examines women’s experience during Iraq War

Chelsee Carter as Mullaya/Amal
Chelsee Carter as Mullaya/Amal

What does it mean to be a woman in a country overshadowed by war? That theme will be explored beginning this week when University Theatre opens Heather Raffo’s “9 Parts of Desire,” directed by Michael Najjar.

Timed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, and perhaps accidentally, International Women’s Day, “9 Parts of Desire” opens at 8 p.m. on March 7 and continues at the same time on March, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16, and at 2 p.m. on March 17 in the UO’s Hope Theatre.

The play presents a portrait of the extraordinary lives of a cross-section of Iraqi women during the years between the first and second Gulf Wars and occupation. The women include a professional mourner, a tortured artist, a confused adolescent, a radical communist, a war zone doctor, a lonely exile, a jilted wife, a second-generation Iraqi-American and a passionate lover.

“9 Parts of Desire” is a timely meditation on the ancient, the modern and the feminine in a country dogged by war but always longing for peace.

Director Michael Najjar says the play should appeal to a broad audience because “even though the U.S. has withdrawn from Iraq, we still see the effects of the war all around us.”

He notes that in Iraq, the tensions between different factions are “as high as ever,” adding that many Americans who served there and are now home have yet to heal from the physical and emotional aspects of war. 

In the play, women wear traditional Iraqi gowns, called abayas, but wear contemporary western clothing underneath.

“It’s important to challenge our perceptions of what we think Iraqi women are,” Najjar says.

Najjar received assistance from several members of the UO Arab Student Union to help understand Iraqi customs, language and traditions.  

“We often forget that Eugene hosts many fascinating and gifted international students and that these students have chosen to study in Eugene despite having opportunities to study anywhere in the world,” Najjar says.

Staging “9 Parts of Desire” to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War will hopefully send a message from the UO stage to the broader community.

The play speaks to the experiences of the war, but it also speaks to our greater humanity and our common desire to find peace in our lives," Najjir says.

Tickets are $14 General Admission, $12 UO faculty/staff and non-UO students, and free for UO students with ID. They can be purchased through the EMU box office, 541-346-4363.

- from University Theatre