‘This project is about love‘
The original one-woman play, 9 Parts of Desire, isn’t meant to explain things simply. Written and performed by award-winning Iraqi-American Heather Raffo, it’s that depth which caught the attention of Edmonton’s The Maggie Tree theatre company.
The Maggie Tree co-executive director and director for the production, Vanessa Sabourin, looks forward to bringing the project to the Varscona Theatre.
“Something that we have always enjoyed with Maggie Tree is getting people to gather, and also putting forward big questions,” Sabourin says.
And in recent months, it hasn’t been difficult to find the big sociopolitical questions to ask.
“It was kind of one of those moments where the play just was really resonating with what was happening in the world,” Sabourin says.
When explaining the contemporary relevance in grant applications in 2016, Sabourin removed citations of then US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.
“Trump certainly won’t be elected, so we’ll just look out of date,” she thought. But his eventual election only served to strengthen part of their reasoning for producing the play.
“It was his divisive conversations that really resonated for us in terms of getting like—you can’t treat the world like that. We don’t live like that anymore,” she says. “It was really our way of approaching the conversations around divisiveness that are happening right now.”
The play tells the stories of nine diverse Iraqi women living during the political turmoil of ‘90s Iraq. One is a nine-year-old girl, another is in her 70s, and the characters run the gamut from a doctor returning from study abroad to open a practice in her war-torn homeland, to a peddler selling things she finds on the street to support her family.
“We believe in what this piece has to say, and it’s actually not speaking necessarily to an Iraqi audience,” Sabourin says. “It’s speaking to a Western audience and asking some big questions, and it’s about humanizing the other.”
Initially, Sabourin says they’d planned to spread the nine parts across three actresses, rather than a solo performance.
“Heather, she says right in her playwright’s notes you can do this as a one person show. You can do it as three. You can do it as nine,” she says, eventually decided on casting a different woman for each role.
“We just realized that more women was going to have a stronger impact,” Sabourin says, and the results during the show’s rehearsals is proving her intuition right. “It has been pretty incredible, what everyone’s different life experiences has brought into the piece … the piece is just such a rich tapestry.”
Sabourin says the nuance that the nine women bring to their roles, guided by consultants and independent multilingual research, helps make our world feel a little smaller.
“This project is about love,” she says. “We need to love and we need to love now, because the other option is so destructive. We’re so powerful now that we’ll just blow ourselves off the face of the Earth.”
A big part of finding that love is meeting each other face-to-face, Sabourin mentions.
“There’s something about our virtual world and our virtual conversations, and social media conversations and things like that that are somewhat dehumanizing.” she says. “You’re not actually talking to people.”
That’s why bringing people together to exchange stories in person is so important, she says.
“There’s all kinds of information that we get from being with each other that is not necessarily translated virtually, so I believe that theatre is really important for gathering people in the flesh.”
With 9 Parts of Desire The Maggie Tree hopes to remind audiences of a simple fact.
“We’re all human,” Sabourin says. “We are actually the same species.”
April 6 – 15, 2017
$30 for Adults, $25 for Students/Seniors
Pay What You Can on Thurs., Apr. 6 and Sat. matinee (Available at the door only)