“I’m fine I’m fine I’m…I’m dead”
Led by a woman called Mullaya, the Islamic call to prayer is heard five times a day: at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, and dusk.
At dawn when the first call to prayer begins from the mosque, the Mullaya comes into the sights of all prayers.
Mullaya: “Early in the morning I come to throw dead shoes into the river. Without this river there would be no here, there would be no beginning.”(p.3)
The play begins so as her suffering.
At midday, the second call sounds from a distance. A woman, who calls herself Umm Ghada, continues to talk about her family and how they are all gone now.
Umm Ghada: “…..here in this grave of Iraqi people. All my family is here, Ghada is here so I am Umm Ghada, Mother of Tomorrow. My full name is dead with them. Come. Now you sign the witness book.”(p.31)
The suffering continues but she tries to keep herself sober and living.
The third call to prayer resounds from far away but her touting interferes.
Nanna: “Hallo hallo you like to buy? (p.41)……When I was young in the school they had us to draw our family tree…So I draw my mother…My teacher say no…So I just erased her, my mother it was only pencil.”(p.44)
As time goes by, she learns more from her suffering but is not allowed to wonder why.
[The fourth call to prayer is heard] while artist Layal is destroying her studio.
Layal: “……first bomb drilling bomb all I want is to feel it—love…second bomb come inside exactly same spot here—he made them prostitutes…third bomb—boil the people I don’t want freedom…I’m fine I’m fine I’m…I’m dead.”(p.63)
The absence of love, proper respect, and freedom has pushed her to the corner till she cannot bear it anymore.
The last call to prayer notifies everyone that the end of the day has come. However, the day of this woman does not seem to be ended yet.
Nanna: “Hallo hallo you like this painting? It is worth she call it Savagery famous artist her name Layal…I tell you this, her last painting alive. All the rest they are burned dead in the museum (p.67)…two dollar?”(p.68)
Her day of suffering has not come to an end for mere two dollars. When the sun rises after the night, this cycle will continue and she will struggle to survive once again.
Her circumstances have not changed even a bit. However, if to find any change, only thing that has changed is her admission of the fact that even “Western culture will not free [her] from being called a whore” (p.61). She recognizes that the problem does not come from which culture she came from; the problem has been her attitude; she will still “do whatever he asks of [her]. But this, [she does] this “for [herself], this is for [her]” (p.62).
Attention Instead of Sympathy
The primary function of this play is to gather attention of the public to women who suffer from sexual inequality and extreme paternalism. The plays of such topic are vulnerable to criticisms that those plays are merely used to arouse sympathy from the public. However, Heather Raffo, the writer of this play, does not cross the line and keeps herself safe from such criticisms. Rather, in 9 Parts of Desire, Raffo successfully implants the impression to audience so that they cannot walk out of the theater without reminding themselves of what they saw and heard from the play. Raffo achieves so by not only informing the audience about the poor circumstances of these nine women but also letting them to talk about what is really in their mind. Such sincere remarks call upon more than mere audience’s sympathy which allows this play to satisfy one of the Fuchs’ “functions” of documentary theaters.
Although her purpose in this play is to call for the public attention, Heather Raffo keeps track of time through the number of call to prayers, which take place five times a day: at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, and dusk. However, the Islamic call to prayers has a more important function than a time frame. The Islamic call to prayers represents a cycle that repeats every day. In 9 Parts of Desire, Raffo tries to present to the audience the repetitive cycle of suffering. Even though the day might end with the last call to prayer, she suggests that the suffering might not end; it is well-shown at the end of the play when Nanna’s attempt to sell Layal’s painting at a cheap price fails even after the last call. In this context, the beginning of the play in which the Mullaya makes her speech in the riverbank can be interpreted in a new way: “without this river there would be no here there would be no beginning.”(p.3) The ending insinuates that this beginning is not the beginning most people, including women in the play, long for; the beginning of a day in the river only represents their desire to return to the womb, the time when their endless cycle of suffering has not started.
1. How did the theater companies make a decision of how many actresses that they would use for this one-woman play?
2. In 9 Parts of Desire, information about locations and backgrounds is not specifically mentioned. How would the theater production make the play’s backgrounds(stages)?