Heather Raffo is an award-winning playwright and actress who’s work has been seen off Broadway, off West End in regional theater and in film. She is the author and solo performer of the play 9 PARTS OF DESIRE (Lucielle Lortel award, Susan Smith Blackburn commendation, Drama League, OCC, Helen Hayes nominations), which The New Yorker called “an example of how art can remake the world”.
9 Parts of Desire was inspired by Raffo’s trip to the modern art museum in Baghdad in August 1993 and tells the story of nine Iraqi women that span the decade between the first and second Gulf Wars and occupation. The play was first produced at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in 2003. It later moved to the Bush Theatre in London’s Off-West End where critics hailed it as one of the five best plays in London. It’s off-Broadway premiere was at the Manhattan Ensemble Theatre, where the show ran for nine sold out months and was a critic’s pick (of the New York Times, Time Out and Village Voice) for over twenty -four weeks in a row. Since 2005, 9 Parts of Desire has been produced all across the U.S. and was one of the top five most produced plays of the 2007-2008 American theater season. It has had international productions in Brazil, Greece, Sweden, Malta, Hungary, Egypt, Turkey, India, Iraq, Scotland, England and Canada.
Most recently, Raffo’s libretto for the opera FALLUJAH, was heard as part of Kennedy Center’s International Theater Festival, it then received its world premiere at Long Beach Opera in March of 2016 and opened at New York City Opera later that year. The opera details the life of a US Marine who served in Fallujah in 2004 and relates the haunting experience of war for veterans and their families as well as Iraqis. A film was made of both the opera as well as a documentary titled Fallujah: Art, Healing and PTSD.
Heather’s newest play, NOURA, just won Williamstown’s prestigious Weissberger Award. NOURA, came out of three years of workshops with Arab American women living in New York City where Heather explored the themes of identity and belonging through her personal narrative initiative titled Places of Pilgrimage. In response to the participants many harrowing stories of leaving home, Heather shared with them Ibsen's A Doll's House. Provoked by the play’s iconic character, Raffo’s workshop provided a rare opportunity for these women to instead discuss contemporary challenges facing modern woman who must bridge family and culture, America and the Middle East. NOURA was then developed at Georgetown University’s LAB for Global Performance and Politics with refugee and Middle East policy experts. Further workshops were supported by The McCarter Theater, Epic Theater Ensemble and our nation’s first Arab American Museum in Dearborn, MI. NOURA will receive it’s world premiere at the Shakespeare Theater in D.C. in February 2018 before it travels to the Middle East for production in Abu Dhabi. NOURA was presented at Playwrights Horizons in December 2018.
Raffo is the recipient of multiple grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to use theater as a means of bridge building between her Eastern and Western cultures. She continues to grow her storytelling workshop, Places of Pilgrimage, taking it to universities and community centers both in America and the Middle East. Clips of participants work from her New York workshop have been supported online, through the organizations Bridges of Understanding and Refugees Deeply, as a means to connect the stories of young Middle Eastern women with their peers globally. Raffo continues her focus on cross-cultural work by speaking at universities across America and internationally. Her work has taken her from classrooms in Tampa to the U.S. Islamic World Forum in Qatar, and from the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati to the Rumi Festival in Oslo. She is a proud member of Epic Theatre Ensemble’s Artistic Advisory Council and to her decade long collaboration with Georgetown’s LAB for Global Performance and Politics.