Articles, Reviews, Volume 5

Heather Raffo on Noura

Heather Raffo on Noura
A Theatre Review by Heather Denyer
Arab Stages, Volume 5, Number 1 (Fall, 2016)
©2016 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publication

In May of 2016, playwright Heather Raffo spoke with me about her collaboration with Epic Theatre and work with women in New York’s Arab-American communities. I asked her about the origins and development of their project. Raffo says, “Epic and I wanted to build the demand for an audience in the Arab American community of New York. … We wanted to go into communities that weren’t going to the theatre, and hadn’t thought about going to the theatre, and didn’t even find it relevant to their lives. So, we received a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation, and then I went into three different communities.” Those communities included a group of older female immigrants at the Arab American Association of New York in Bay Ridge, ten or so younger girls at the Arab Family Support Center in Brooklyn, and about fifteen students in their twenties at Queens College.

Heather Raffo. Photo: CSS Theatre

Heather Raffo. Photo: CSS Theatre

Participants found the workshops an expressive outlet and supportive community. In all three situations, Raffo led the women in what she calls the Places of Pilgrimage Workshop. “This is a workshop I created, where the primary goal is to have participants write their own monologue in a first-person narrative, about a pilgrimage, a journey, a journey they’re on.” For the women involved, there was “a lot of exploring of belonging and of identity in each play.”

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