Eight years after fleeing their home in Iraq, Noura and her family celebrate Christmas, and their new life, in New York City. But when the arrival of a visitor stirs up long-buried memories, Noura and her husband are forced to confront the cost of their choices; the past they left behind. Inspired by stories from Arab-American women and created in response to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Heather Raffo’s Noura charts the intricate pathways of motherhood and marriage—and the fragile architecture of what we call home. 

Produced In Association with Golden Thread Productions.

“I am most excited to be in conversations with Marin audiences about their views of belonging, individual identity and the architecture of what they call home. As the characters of Noura attempt to balance their individual pursuits with a search for community, I believe it is quite possibly a balance with which many of us struggle.” — Heather Raffo

Run time is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. 

Special effects advisories: This production features the use of herbal cigarettes and simulated gunshots.

MTC provides advisories for each production regarding special effects that may affect patron health and physical sensitivities as necessary. MTC does not provide advisories relating to content, because content sensitivities vary from patron to patron. If you have questions about content, please contact the box office prior to purchasing your tickets as we do not offer refunds to patrons who choose not to see a show based on subject matter. 

Generous season and program support for Noura provided by The Shubert Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Relevant Wealth Advisors.

Performance Schedule

Press Opening Night  Tuesday, Jan 14, 7:30pm.  
Opening nights are not available for sale online. 
Seating is extremely limited.  

Questions? Please contact the Box Office directly: 
(415) 388-5208 | boxoffice@marintheatre.org 

Tue - Sat 7:30pm   
Sunday Jan 19, 7:30pm

Sunday (Preview) Jan 12, 4pm     
Thursday (Perspectives) Jan 30, 1pm
Saturdays, Jan 18 & 25, Feb 1 & 8, 2pm
Sundays Jan 19 & 26, Feb 2 & 9, 2pm

Ticket Prices

Performance Center
Performance Center seating Side seating
Previews $39 $39
Sat Eve & Weekend Matinees $60 $55
Tue*, Wed, Thu, Fri & Sun Eve $52 $47
Perspectives Matinee $52 $47
Best Deal (see info below) $25 $25


Phone & online orders subject to a $6 fee per order.

Tickets are subject to resale starting 5 minutes before curtain. Late seating is based on available seats.

Disabled seating is currently only available through the MTC Box Office (415.388.5208 or in person). We apologize for any inconvenience.


  • BEST DEAL: $25 tickets in select seats available for all performances beginning one week before opening night. Available online. Questions? Call the box office at 415-388-5208
  • GROUPS: Bring eight or more people to receive a $7 discount on tickets. The group discount is automatically applied online. Questions? Call the box office at 415-388-5208.
  • SENIORS (65+): $4 off single tickets to all performances, available online.
  • UNDER 35: $25, all performances, available online.
  • TEENS: $10 tickets, all performances, available online.
  • EDUCATOR: $12 tickets, all performances (limit 2). Call the box office to reserve at (415) 388-5208.
  • MILITARY: $6 off all performances. Thank you for your service! Please call the box office to reserve at (415) 388-5208.

Only one promotional code can be used per order, and cannot be combined with any other discounts or offers.

Promo codes can be used when purchasing tickets online, or when mentioned to the Box Office associate over the phone or in person at the MTC Box Office counter.

PromoGeneral priced tickets ONLY, so be sure to select the General price type after selecting your preferred seats online.

Promo codes cannot be applied to Senior tickets, Under 35 tickets, Teen tickets or Best Deal tickets.

If purchasing tickets online, type your promo after selecting your seats and price type. The system is case sensitive so if the code you're given is in all-caps, make sure it is entered in all-caps!

If you don't see the discount applied in your cart at checkout, please contact the Box Office before confirming your payment as refunds will not be issued for failed web applications.

Select a Performance

To begin your ticket purchase, select a performance from the calendar below:


  • Mattico David*

    Mattico David*


    Mattico David is from Flint, MI and thrilled to be making his MTC debut. Past stage work includes Noura at Playwrights Horizons (Off Broadway) and Shakespeare Theatre Company; A Streetcar Named DesireBoeing, BoeingA Stone CarverEscanaba In Da’ MoonlightBest of FriendsApartment 3A, Corktown, Bleeding Red, Consider the Oyster, Growing Pretty, White Buffalo at the Purple Rose Theatre Company; American BuffaloDisgraced at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre; and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at Flint City Theatre. He earned his BFA in Theater from the University of Michigan.

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  • ​Valentino Bertolucci Herrera

    ​Valentino Bertolucci Herrera


    Valentino Bertolucci Herrera was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is 11 years old and attends Mill Valley Middle School. Recently, he performed in the Marin Theatre Company productions of Willy Wonka and Freaky Friday. Valentino plays the baritone for his middle school band and  the piano for his school’s jazz band. Valentino is a member of an advanced Tae Kwon Do demonstration team that has performed in the 2018 and 2019 San Francisco Chinese New Year Parades. In addition to being a performer, Valentino enjoys playing soccer, skateboarding, learning how to cook with his grandmothers, and going to concerts and movies.

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  • Denmo Ibrahim*

    Denmo Ibrahim*


    Denmo Ibrahim was recently at MTC in The Who & the What. An actor, playwright, and poet, she was recently seen on stage as Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns at Seattle Repertory. Some U.S. credits include A.C.T., The Old Globe, New York Theatre Workshop, California Shakespeare Theater, Aurora Theatre, Crowded Fire, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She has collaborated with playwrights Mac Wellman, Eric Ehn, Yusef El Guindi, Kristoffer Diaz, Thomas Bradshaw, Melinda Lopez, Dustin Chinn, and Tanya Saracho and originated roles with composers Claudio Bohorquez, Rinde Eckhert, and Carla Kihlstedt. Her devised work has toured to international festivals in Egypt, France and Germany. She is the recipient of a Theatre Bay Area Award and a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award. Ibrahim has an M.F.A. in Lecoq-Based Actor-Created Physical Theatre from Naropa University and a B.F.A. in Acting from Boston University. She is a founding artistic director of Mugwumpin and a resident artist of Golden Thread Productions. 

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  • Abraham Makany*

    Abraham Makany*


    Abraham Makany is excited to be making his MTC debut. Regional Theatre: The Corpse Washer in the 43rd Humana Festival (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Off-Broadway: Bars and Measures (Urban Stages); Trial of an American President (Theatre Row); Waterwell’s Hamlet (The Sheen Center); Kandahar to Canada in The 34th Marathon of One-Act Plays (Ensemble Studio Theatre); Job (The Flea Theater); the Obie Award winning production of The Brig (The Living Theatre). Television: Orange is the New BlackGothamBlue BloodsThe BlacklistHomelandBlindspotThe AmericansDeceptionPerson of InterestHAPPYishThe Ridge: OriginsWyatt Cenac’s Problem AreasFilm: Rainbow RuthieBrooklyn ParkSaint NicholasEl GalloAdditional Credits: readings and workshops include work with The Atlantic Theater Co., The Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Classic Stage Company, The Lark, among others. Education: Rutgers University's Professional Actor Training Program. 

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  • Maya Nazzal

    Maya Nazzal


    Maya Nazzal is a San Francisco-based actor. She is first generation Palestinian-American and is a native Arabic speaker. She received her BA in Theatre Arts from San Francisco State University and recently trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. Her most recent credit is a Fairytale Player in Leila’s Quest for Flight at Golden Thread ProductionsHer SFSU stage credits include Top Girls, The Laramie Project, The Baltimore Waltz, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, and Forever Chasing Smarts. Maya will be making her Marin Theatre Company debut with Noura. She is excited to take part in a production that represents stories of Arab-American women and is incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

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Creative Team

  • Heather Raffo

    Heather Raffo


    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.

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  • Kate Bergstrom

    Kate Bergstrom


    Kate Bergstrom is a bicoastal director whose work has been seen at Trinity Rep, Ars Nova, REDCAT, New Dramatists, JACK, UCLAlive!, Highways Performance Space, Rattlestick Theatre, Theatre at Monmouth, Know Theatre of Cincinnati, LACMA, LATC+ We the Women, Music Academy of the West, Opera San Diego and more. She's developed new work in theaters from Curious Theatre Company (Denver) to Ojai Playwrights Conference. Central Coast BroadwayWorld.com’s 2016 Person to Watch + 2017 Best Director. Upcoming: The Absentee at Bloomington Playwrights Project. On The Verge Founding Artistic Director (www.onthevergefest.org) MFA Brown/Trinity 2018. Critic @ RISD + NYU www.katebergstrom.com

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  • Liz Matos*

    Liz Matos*

    Stage Manager

    Liz Matos is delighted to return to Marin Theatre Company, where last season she staged managed August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned, and The Who and The What. Locally, Liz has also worked with Magic Theatre, Marin Shakespeare Company, The Cutting Ball Theater, A.C.T. Conservatory, and PlayGround. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association.

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  • Adam Rigg

    Scenic Designer

    ADAM RIGG 2015 Princess Grace Award and a three-time Henry Hewes Design Award nominee. RECENT DESIGNS since 2014: New York Theater Workshop, Yale Rep, Soho Rep, Signature Theater Company, Atlantic Theater Company, Manhattan Theater Club, Williamstown Theater Festival, The Mark Taper Forum, LA Opera, Theater An Der Wien -Vienna, Berkeley Rep, The Guthrie Theater, Cincinnati Symphony, Westport Country Playhouse,  Theater For A New Audience, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Cal Shakes, Buena Vista Center, Theater Municipal - São Paulo, Opera Omaha, Opera Philadelphia. UPCOMING: Norwegian National Opera, The Kennedy Center, Santa Fe Opera, The Public Theater, The Old Globe, LA Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Opera Philadelphia, The Alliance Theater, Asolo Rep, Trinity Wall Street/PROTOTYPE Festival, Roundhouse Theatre, and ArtsEmerson. BA - UCLA 2010, MFA - Yale School of Drama 2013 adamriggdesign.com

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  • Kate Boyd

    Kate Boyd

    Lighting Designer

    Kate Boyd is a Bay Area scenic and lighting designer. She recently designed the scenery for NCTC’s This Side of Crazy, Aurora Theater’s Exit Strategy and We Swim We Talk We Go to War for Golden Thread where she a resident artist. She has also worked with Magic Theatre, Merola Opera, the SF Conservatory of Music, Company C Ballet, Theaterworks and was a recipient of the Gerbode Design Fellowship. Kate teaches stagecraft and design Lick-Wilmerding High School.

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  • Anna Oliver

    Costume Designer

    Local work: Marin Theater company: Syncopation, The Puppet Master of Lodz, The Price; The Who and the What
    California Shakespeare Theatre: THE WAR of the ROSES, PYGMALION, THE TEMPEST, Candida, Twelfth Night, MAN AND SUPERMAN, RESTORATION COMEDY, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, PARTS One and Two, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Taming of the Shrew; Berkeley Repertory Theatre: RED, THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE, HEARTBREAK HOUSE, THE PILLOW MAN, Fraulein Elsa, THE MAGIC FIRE; American Conservatory Theatre: THE CONSTANT WIFE, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, The Guardsman; Theatre Works: Water by the Spoonful, TIME STANDS STILL; Aurora: founding production of Dear Master well as many others. Mrs. Oliver’s work has also been seen at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Old Globe (San Diego), La Jolla Theatre, McCarter Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre (D.C.), San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company, City Opera (NYC), and the Welsh National Opera. Ms. Oliver received her BFA from the California College of Art and her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

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  • Nihan Yesil

    Nihan Yesil

    Sound Designer

    Nihan Yesil started studying music at an early age. After her M.M. in Composition (UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance), she received her M.F.A. in Sound Design (UMKC Theatre). Her music has been performed in a number of venues, festivals, and artist residencies across the U.S. and Europe. Some of her designs for theatre include Ladies (Boston Court Pasadena), Skin Of Our Teeth (Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre) Lasso of Truth (Unicorn Theatre), Caucasian Chalk Circle (UMKC Theatre/KCRep), and Seven Guitars (UMKC Theatre). As a multimedia artist, Nihan received Charlotte Street Foundation’s 1-year Urban Spaces artist residency and her projection art was awarded “Favorite Visual Artist” at the program’s biannual open studios exhibition. Nihan is also the co-founder of SoundTheatre, a collaborative group that is currently launching its second home in Los Angeles.

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  • Nakissa Etemad

    Nakissa Etemad


    Nakissa Etemad is a dramaturg, producer, director, French translator, Resident Artist of Golden Thread Productions, and the Regional VP Metro Bay Area for Literary Managers & Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA). She is thrilled to make her debut at MTC. Nakissa is recipient of the Elliott Hayes Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dramaturgy for The Lark’s Launching New Plays into the Repertoire four-city premieres of the road weeps, the well runs dry by Marcus Gardley. She has served as former dramaturg and literary manager for The Wilma Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and San Diego Repertory Theatre. Nakissa has specialized in new plays and musicals for over 25 years, working with such writers as Tom Stoppard, Arthur Miller, Luis Valdez, Lynn Nottage, Marcus Gardley, Lauren Yee, Betty Shamieh, Katori Hall, Charles Mee, Culture Clash, Margo Hall, Polly Pen, Lillian Groag, and Chay Yew. Recent premieres include ReOrient 2019 Festival of Short Plays and Zahra Noorbakhsh’s On Behalf of All Muslims: A Comedy Special (Golden Thread); Play On! Shakespeare Festival Reading and commission of King Lear by Marcus Gardley (Oregon Shakespeare Fest at Classic Stage Company); Bay Area Playwrights Festival readings of Terence Anthony’s The House of the Negro Insane (2019), Colonialism Is Terrible, But Pho Is Delicious by Dustin Chinn (2018), and Damascus by Bennett Fisher (2017); The River Bride (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Heart Shaped Nebula (Shotgun Players) by Marisela Treviño Orta; Isfahan Blues by Torange Yeghiazarian with music by Marcus Shelby (Golden Thread and African-American Shakespeare); Be Bop Baby: A Musical Memoir by Margo Hall, music by Marcus Shelby (Z Space); every tongue confess by Marcus Gardley (Arena Stage). M.F.A. in Dramaturgy, UCSD.

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  • Torange Yeghiazarian

    Torange Yeghiazarian

    Cultural Consultant

    Torange Yeghiazarian is the Founding Artistic Director of Golden Thread Productions, the first American theatre company focused on the Middle East where she launched such visionary programs as ReOrient Festival of Short Plays, New Threads staged reading series, Fairytale Players school and library tour, and What do the Women Say? annual celebration of International Women’s Day; and timely initiatives such as Islam 101 to develop original plays celebrating Islamic art and philosophy, and Project Alo? an international artistic video exchange using mobile phones. A playwright, director, and translator, Torange’s plays include ISFAHAN BLUES, THE FIFTH STRING, THANKSGIVING AT KHODABAKHSHIAN’S, 444 DAYS, WAVES, and CALL ME MEHDI published in “Salaam. Peace: An Anthology of Middle Eastern-American Drama,” TCG, 2009. Her translation of A MOMENT OF SILENCE by Mohammad Yaghoubi received a Best Play Award (Toronto Fringe Festival, 2016) and her stage adaptation of Nizami’s LAYLA AND MAJNUN is available on Gleeditions.com. Other writings include a case study chapter to “Casting a Movement”, Routledge, 2019, and articles in The Drama Review, American Theatre Magazine, AmerAsia Journal, the Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, and the Cambridge World Encyclopedia of Stage Actors. Torange has been recognized by Theatre Bay Area and is one of Theatre Communication Group’s Legacy Leaders of Color. She was honored by the Cairo International Theatre Festival and the Symposium on Equity in the Entertainment Industry at Stanford University. Born in Iran and of Armenian heritage, Torange holds a Master’s degree in Theatre Arts from San Francisco State University.

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  • Lynne Soffer

    Lynne Soffer

    Dialect Coach

    Lynne Soffer has served as text, vocal &/or dialect coach on over 300 productions at SF Opera, Berkeley Rep, A.C.T., Cal Shakes, Magic Theatre, Word for Word, SF Mime Troupe, TheatreWorks, SF Conservatory of Music, Cuttingball, Crowded Fire, San Jose Rep, Old Globe(San Diego), Dallas Theater Center, Arizona Theatre Co., Arena Stage, Seattle Rep, Denver Center and 33 productions at MTC among others. Her film and television credits include 13 Reasons Why (Netflix), Fruitvale Station, Metro, Duets, The Land of Milk and Honey and America’s Most Wanted. She currently
    serves as SF Opera’s English Diction/Dialect Coach. Ms Soffer is also a professional actor, director, and teacher.

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  • Ahmed Ashour

    Ahmed Ashour

    Assistant Director

    Ahmed Ashour (he/him/his) is a Bahraini-Egyptian theatre-maker and thinker. He is a winner of the highly-selective Bahrain Crown Prince International Scholarship Program, awarded to young Bahraini scholars for their distinction. His work focuses on creating space on stage for Arab and/or Muslim-identifying people to navigate and intervene in the disciplinary/surveillance state. Select credits include Yussef El Guindi’s BACK OF THE THROAT, Lauren Gunderson’s NATURAL SHOCKS (Sock & Buskin at Brown University, 2018 Senior Slot Award), AMERICA TOO - THE HOUSING CRISIS IN PROVIDENCE (Trinity Repertory Company), A GUIDE TO WINNING (La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art), and PIPPIN (Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan). Ahmed recently received his B.A. in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies from Brown University, where he trained under director Kate Bergstrom. He currently freelances both in Bahrain and internationally. ahmedashour.org

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  • Brigid Ridge


  • Goñi Montes

    Goñi Montes

    Graphic Illustrator (promotional artwork)

    Goñi was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, got a BA from the UPR at Mayagüez, and an MFA from SCAD Atlanta. I began working as a scientific illustrator for the Puerto Rico Sea Grant. Now I mostly do editorial illustrations & comics with some fantasy here and there.

    Adobe // Adweek // American Way // Architectural Review // Arena Stage // BOOM! Studios // Canadian Business Magazine // Chicago Tribune // Draft FCB // Dwell // Entertainment Weekly // ESPN // Euroman // Field & Stream // Golf Magazine // Guideposts // Guitar World // Intel // Label Mag // Ladies’ Home Journal // Leo Burnett // Lighthouse Catholic Media // Macmillan // McDonald’s // The New Republic // The New York Times // The New Yorker // Oz Magazine // Pearson Education // Playboy // Puerto Rico Sea Grant // Rolling Stone // San Francisco Magazine // San Francisco Chronicle // Simon & Schuster // Scientific American // Skiing Magazine // Society of Illustrators LA // Spin Master // Tor.com // The Village Voice // The Wall Street Journal // The Washington Post // Wired // Wizards of the Coast // The Work Style Magazine // Young & Rubicam


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  • Trevor Scott Floyd

    Trevor Scott Floyd

    Artistic Producer

    Trevor Scott Floyd (he/him/his) started as an Artistic Direction intern with MTC in 2015 and, prior to his current role as Artistic Producer, spent two seasons as Director of Ticketing, Artistic Associate, and Company Manager. As Artistic Producer, Trevor serves as MTC's local Casting Director. Originally from the beaches of South Carolina, he graduated with a dual major in Theatre and Political Science from Clemson University before trading in the Palmetto trees for the Redwoods. In addition to his role at MTC he is a freelance director and writer. You can read his latest work on the New Play Exchange.

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* Denotes member of Actors Equity Association
+ Member, United Scenic Artists
^ Member, Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers


  • ‘Noura’ shows actor Denmo Ibrahim at the height of her powers

    Heather Raffo's play about a family of Iraqi refugees a showcase for virtuoso local actor.

    Noura and her family have lived in the U.S. for eight years, but their New York home still looks temporary, as if they’d just moved in.

    Books and photos clump on the floor, as little heirloom islands. The only furniture is a kitchen table. And there’s a Christmas tree. Maybe Noura feels that as refugees from Mosul, Iraq, they might have to pack up and flee again. Or maybe she wonders, “What kind of home could this be, anyway?” They’re a world away from where they’re from, or what little is left of it, ever since the Christian community came under heavy attack in the wake of the U.S. invasion.

    In “Noura,” whose Bay Area premiere opened Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Marin Theatre Company, in association with Golden Thread Productions, Noura can’t imagine ever again hosting her whole neighborhood for Christmas, as her father did in the old days, and Adam Rigg’s smart set design makes physical the isolation and loneliness that Noura (Denmo Ibrahim) and her husband, Tareq (Mattico David), each feel. Rigg exaggerates the way the parallel lines of her floors, walls and ceiling vanish toward a single point, making her apartment look like a severe cinder block cell, or like a giant blunt instrument. Here, atomization doesn’t just wall off and defend; it menaces.

    In Heather Raffo’s shattering drama, directed with uncommon sensitivity and discernment by Kate Bergstrom, walls come tumbling down with the arrival of Maryam (Maya Nazzal). While Noura, Tareq and their son, Yazen (Valentino Bertolucci Herrera), have all finally just received their American passports — they’re now officially Nora, Tim and Alex — Maryam is a much more recent refugee from Mosul.

    An orphan, she was raised in a convent by Noura’s aunt, and as an act of charity, Noura and Tareq are helping to cover her expenses as she studies at Stanford. Now, meeting Noura in person for the first time, Maryam brings an unsettling surprise. She’s pregnant but unmarried, and she doesn’t apologize for herself, which dredges up all kinds of secrets and shames for Noura and Tareq, as well as for their close friend, Rafa’a (Abraham Makany).

    Ibrahim has long been a tower of strength in the Bay Area theater scene, but “Noura” showcases her powers at still loftier heights.

    Many great actors can carry a whole scene on their own; Ibrahim can hold up a whole table of people with just her eyes, which might train upward in exasperation, fear, bewilderment and prayer all at once. In moments of silence, her gaze is so communicative that you might have to remind yourself she didn’t just say, “What was that?” or “Maybe he’s right.”

    She’s particularly well matched by David and Makany — David with his ability to keep heaping affection and disgust into an explosive ball of confusion, Makany with his quiet focus, his understated tenacity, the leagues of grief he only hints at, by drawing an outline around the absences in Rafa’a’s life.

    Each time you think you know what the crux of “Noura” is, Raffo keeps breaking the play open wider and wider, drilling, out of one prickly visit, to the heart of how her characters walk through the world and are stunted by it. Revelations of secrets pile up, and characters speak as if they expect their lines to resound off cliffs, across oceans: “It’s the weight of being erased”; “Forgive her inability to see how much you need to love her.”

    In lesser hands, such moments might look cheesy or overwrought, but Bergstrom more than justifies them. Noura’s family needs to talk that way because the whole world keeps being at stake, in a new way, with each beat.

    In the past couple of weeks, our world has felt newly at stake, especially in the part of the globe where Noura and her family are from. Raffo’s play is the tale of survivors, and the tentative, repressed lives they’ve eked out suggest a constant backdrop of death and destruction and loss.

    Surviving isn’t living, “Noura” points out, and it’s certainly not the same as loving. Surviving is holding in abeyance until you can live and love again, and you can still be in survival mode long after an invasion, long after fleeing.

    — Lily Janiak. SF Chronicle Read full review
  • A refugee ‘Doll’s House’ crumbles at MTC

    “Noura,” the latest play at Marin Theatre Company, is several things at once. Most importantly and most explicitly, it’s a drama about an Iraqi refugee family in New York City celebrating Christmas eight years after fleeing Mosul, as they grapple with what to keep of their traditions and cultural attitudes from a home that is completely destroyed and never coming back.

    It’s a 2018 play by Iraqi-American playwright Heather Raffo, whose one-woman show, “9 Parts of Desire,” played Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2006. (Both plays originally starred Raffo elsewhere.)

    In part, “Noura” is also Raffo’s response to “A Doll’s House,” though it’s far from an adaptation of the classic Henrik Ibsen drama. It doesn’t borrow plot points so much as explore some similar themes, though there are some obvious parallels among the characters and the two plays share a Christmastime setting.

    Noura, her husband, Tareq, and their preteen son, Yazen, finally have their citizenship and their United States passports, though Noura chafes at their Americanized names — Nora, Tim and Alex. In fact, Noura is wrestling with a lot of feelings about who they’re supposed to be now and what standards they’re supposed to live by. As they open their home to a couple of other fellow refugees from Mosul, Noura can’t help but dwell on the Christmases of her childhood, when neighbors would flock to her father’s house.

    Mill Valley-based Denmo Ibrahim radiates warmth and self-assurance as Noura, which makes it all the more striking when her seeming contentment proves to be built on fragile ground. Mattico David (who originated the role of Rafa’a in the same play) is sweet and flirtatious with her as husband Tareq, with a laid-back quality belied by some of his reactions as challenging conversations unfold. Their son Alex is thoroughly Americanized, portrayed with plain-spoken semi-obliviousness to the drama around him by Mill Valley’s 11-year-old Valentino Bertolucci Herrera. Rafa’a, Noura’s friend since childhood (an amiable Abraham Makany), is a mostly supportive presence and sounding board.

    It’s the arrival of Maryam, an orphan raised in a Mosul convent who’s now a pregnant Stanford student (coolly and defiantly self-possessed Maya Nazzal), that sets everyone on edge. The uncomfortable conversations about her pregnancy set almost everyone on edge, sparking conversations they never thought they’d have (whereas her working as a weapons contractor for the Department of Defense is apparently a non-issue). And, of course, the fact that she’s named Maryam and arriving at Christmas is no mere coincidence.

    Not much of what happened in Mosul is really spelled out in the play. Some familiarity with the events there is assumed, and others should get the gist from all the allusions to slaughter, book-burning and the destruction of cultural sites. There’s also a helpful timeline in the program.

    Presented in association with San Francisco’s Golden Thread Productions, the play’s Bay Area premiere is staged by director Kate Bergstrom in a way that adds an unnerving edge even when we don’t yet know there’s anything to be unnerved about.

    The walls and ceiling of Adam Rigg’s set of the New York apartment are all set a steep slant, so that the curtained rear wall is only a small square, giving a sense of a claustrophobic environment before the play even begins.

    Provocative lines are often punctuated with flickering lights and bursts of sound — talking, tense music — in Kate Boyd’s lighting and Nihan Yesil’s sound design, as a literal audiovisual representation of post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Sometimes the moody lighting and suspenseful music color the play in strange ways: When Noura replaces part of her son’s brightly colored Christmas pageant costume with a more traditional head covering and sends him outside to wait for her, it may trigger sudden anxiety that he might fall prey to some kind of anti-immigrant violence, though nothing like that actually happens in the play.

    When things finally do come to a head, it all happens in a whirlwind of passionate, poetic speeches that bring things to an emotional boil in a way that’s far less grounded that’s gone before. In fact, it’s as if the characters have become unmoored. As well performed as it is, this heightened ending feels more like a palpable struggle to wrap up the play’s themes (and its Ibsen allusions) than a credible close to these particular characters’ arc. But then, where to go from here is exactly the seemingly insoluble question.

    — Sam Hurwitt, MArin IJ Read full review
  • Review: “Noura”

    “I don’t want to forget.  I’m trying desperately to remember who the hell I am.”

    Forced by a life-threatening seize to leave her home in Mosul as a member of the Iraqi Christian community, immigrant and now American citizen Noura wants this Christmas Eve to be perfect in every respect, recalling the foods and family times of those Christmases spent in her homeland – a country whose Christian heritage can be traced back to the time of Jesus.  That her husband, Tareq is happy to “feel safe for the first time in my life,” that her son Yazen (“Alex,” as he prefers to be called) knows no Arabic and only wants a Play Station, and that her life-long friend Rafa’a advises her, “Let it go, Noura, how we grew up is never coming back,” does not calm Noura’s sense of unease with her present and her longing for a recent past that others say can never again be a part of her future.

    Drawing on a group of Arab-American, refugee women’s own experiences, Heather Raffo also uses also the experiences of her own father’s, Mosul family as she explores in her play, Noura, one woman’s struggles finding a balance between remembering, honoring, and continuing aspects of her past life and accepting, adjusting, and recreating a new life in a new land.  The painful, sometimes all-encompassing struggles between letting go and moving on are daily, even hourly realities for the play’s forty-something, title character.  Noura becomes an Every Woman representing the millions like her who have been ripped from her homeland and heritage with no hope of return.  Marin Theatre Company in association with Golden Thread Productions presents the Bay Area premiere of Heather Raffo’s Noura in a one-act production (one hour, forty minutes) that even with well-placed pauses and moments of absolute silence, is fast-moving, gripping, and emotionally compelling.

    Heather Raffo’s Noura is based loosely on Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; but rather than Noura being imprisoned in the confines of the male-dominated society around her as is Ibsen’s Nora, Noura is locked inside her own world of mixed dreams and reality, stuck somewhere in a purgatory between her past and her present lives.  Like in A Doll’s House, it is Christmas time as the play opens.  And like in Ibsen, there is also much attention being given to presents; to a female guest who suddenly arrives bringing surprises; to a family friend who reveals heretofore unspoken love for Noura; and to a past act that was committed in love but that unexpectedly resurrects as a major disruption between her and her husband.  However, where these similarities lead Ibsen’s Nora to a final and defining act of feminist liberation, the play’s final expression of Raffo’s Noura is much less clear, less satisfying, and yet perhaps much more the reality of many immigrant women who like her, find themselves unstable on the foreign soil they now reside.

    Denmo Ibrahim is stage-commanding in the role of Noura, a woman who teeters between assertive confidence and desperate insecurity.  Following the skills of her former profession, she has in her mind an architect’s plan of how she wants this Christmas to look and to be and goes about its preparation with a bold, bullish flair.  But each time someone is either too early or too late in her planned schedule of arrivals, each time even the smallest detail like her son’s rolled dolmas do not match her pre-determined picture of perfection, or each time the reality that she has painted of how things should now be is not quite what she expects – like a guest’s surprise that reveals itself once she takes off her winter coat – those are the times a look of panic, a wave of anger, or an engulfing of disappointment overtake the entire being of Denmo Ibrahim’s Noura.  And in those moments, her Noura often quickly escapes her now-uncomfortable surroundings to go outside to inhale a forbidden cigarette, to think aloud (for only us to hear), and to relish the delicious coolness of falling snow – the wintery aspect of her new life that was so foreign to her former home but from which she seems now to find much solace.  But what she seems unable to escape is her own near-debilitating sense of loss in being one of the “millions and millions of people [who] are flooding out with nothing … leaving behind the beginning of time.”  In her own words, “No wonder so many of us are drowning.”  Throughout the play, Denmo Ibrahim captures that sense of a person gasping for life-saving air in an atmosphere that is increasingly – even after eight years – stifling to her sense of well-being.

    Mattico David as her husband Tareq appears on first glance to be fully at ease with his new life, home, and family.  He nibbles at the neck of his wife, coaxing her to give him the one Christmas present he wants –  a daughter, “an American baby,” teasing Nora, “one that smells like you and fights like you but has my sweet disposition.”  Mattico David’s Tareq is in fact an easy-going charmer who lures us into believing he has fully assimilated as an ex-surgeon now working as an attendant in a local hospital’s emergency room.  But his Tareq, like his wife, still has deep roots in his homeland that expose themselves in an explosion of moralities, judgments, and accusations that prove he has not himself yet let go of his past as much as he claims.  Worse, he is quick to blame Noura – “You are always forcing me back there” – rather than truly owning his own ways of being stuck in that past.

    Abraham Makany is the likable, even endearing Rafa’a who is best friend to both Noura and Tareq and is an annual part of their Christmas even though he is Muslim.  He is particularly close and understands his childhood friend, Noura, perhaps even better than her husband.  While he encourages her to “let it go,” he also admits to her, “You and I are from Mosul; we are wired to hang on.”  But with that connection comes complications for the two of them, as his past silence opens up to reveal secrets.

    Secrets also are multiply intertwined in the arrival of Maryam, a twenty-six-year-old Stanford student whom Noura has been the life-long, anonymous sponsor while Maryam grew up as an orphan in a Mosul nunnery.  A Facebook search by Noura has led to this planned, first meeting.  Maya Nazzal confidently and convincingly plays the young, recent immigrant.  Her Maryam revels being fiercely independent as she daringly sets her own course in this new American life of hers.  But both she and Noura have revelations to make that will send potentially destructive tremors into the still-developing foundation of their first face-to-face meetings.

    Rounding out the talented cast of five is eleven-year-old Valentino Bertolucci Herrera who is in every way an all-American kid with a load of expressed cute, cuddly, and curious mannerisms that can quickly give way to his preference to run off to his room to play a video game.  Unfortunately on opening night, there were times when hearing all the words of his young, rather soft voice was difficult due to a director’s blocking where he (and others) were sometimes facing away from the audience. Hopefully, this can be corrected since the young actor is overall superb in his part.

    Kate Bergstrom directs the Marin production with an eye to combining artfully the realities of the comings and goings in the family’s living room and the haunting dream/thought flashes that Noura experiences at the mention of some particular word or reference.  Those surreal moments are marked by flashes, switches, and changes in lighting as part of Kate Boyd’s artistically fabulous designs for the evening and by music, whispers, and other effects of Nihan Yesil’s masterfully effective sound design.  Adam Rigg’s set design frames the home’s main room with a massive, unfinished border that reflects the work-still-in-progress of Noura’s furnishing her home after eight years of residence.  (Her husband is prone the mention “the couch” that has never been bought.)  Anna Oliver’s designs of each person’s costumes helps round out the development and exposure of their unique personalities.

    As compelling as this exploration is of an immigrant’s attempt to retain enough aspects of her past to make her present feel more like the home she wants, there are times when Heather Raffo’s Nourabegins to look, sound, and feel like an Arabic-American telenovela.  The dramatic revelations of long-kept secrets, the emotionally explosive reactions, and the ellipsis-like ending that seems to call for a sequel (or for next week’s episode) sometimes become momentary distractions from the overall, quite effective and effecting script, direction, and acting.

    That said, Marin Theatre Company’s Noura is a night of important theatre that could hardly be timelier, given the news of not only that past couple of years but even more so, the past couple of weeks. Audiences cannot help but walk away with new insights and new questions about the experiences of recent immigrants who have literally had to leave everything from a long past and flee for their very lives to a new, completely foreign land – a land where each must now figure out when and if it can become home.

    Rating: 4 E

    — Eddie Reynolds, Theatre Eddy Read full review

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