Heather Raffo on Noura

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Throughout the project, Raffo considered the particular life experiences of the women. “For Middle Eastern women, if you live outside the home, it reflects on the family. You might be sexual. You might not be a virgin. Now you’re un-marriageable. Even if the parents are completely down with their child going across the country to Stanford University, and have been pushing their daughter to get the best grades, these big issues come into play. That even in Latin and African American and Asian, in other communities, it just doesn’t play out quite as strongly for the daughters. So there are lots of these subtleties that in that ‘Places of Pilgrimage Workshop,’ that was all that they wanted to talk about. All the taboos, all the things they couldn’t do. How do they pursue their dreams and their individualism in the context of the culture?”

During the first round of workshops, Raffo and director Ron Russell, co-founder and Executive Director of Epic Theatre noticed that the college students’ monologues related strongly with Ibsen’s play, A Dolls House. The group attended the Young Vic’s production of the play directed by Carrie Cracknell at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the spring of 2014, and the next year began a Dolls House workshop using Epic Theatre’s “remix model.” This involves taking a classical play and allowing the participants to narrow it down to plot points, then connecting the plot points to their own lives in an original way, influenced by family and heritage and personal experiences.

What developed from these workshops resounded profoundly with Ibsen’s play, “The reason why it was relevant to them is that for so many of them, A Dolls House is hugely about a woman’s decision to leave, and in that case, leaving a marriage. So many of these women have had to leave something like that. They have had to flee countries and flee parents… in quite harrowing situations. And they’re making all these incredible connections between Ibsen’s Nora’s awakening and decision to leave.”

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