Heather Raffo has been performing her Nine Parts of Desire since its acclaimed debut at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2003. From there the production moved to the Bush Theatre in London, where it was chosen by critics as one of the five best plays of the year. Further developed at the Public Theater as part of their New York Now festival in 2004, Nine Parts opened Off Broadway later that year. It was greeted by rave reviews, including the New Yorker’s John Lahr, who called it “an example of how art can remake the world,” and it garnered several awards. It has since been produced in theaters across the U.S. (it was chosen by eight TCG constituent theaters for their 2007-2008 seasons) and internationally, with either Raffo performing or one to several actresses playing the nine characters.
Raffo’s father was born into a Christian family in Mosul, Iraq, All of his siblings married and each of them had five children. As Raffo told Denis Wholey on “This is America” during the 2006 run of Nine Parts in Washington, D.C., she has between fifty and seventy family members in Iraq. Her father, a civil engineer, married an American and Raffo was born and raised in Michigan. She first visited her Iraqi relatives as a four-year-old and returned in 1993 after the Gulf War. She has described how her visits inspired Nine Parts in her author’s statement for the anthology.
Raffo earned her B.A. at the University of Michigan and an MFA from the University of San Diego, where she created the first draft of Nine Parts as a thesis project. She refined the play over the next ten years, during which she studied at RADA and pursued an acting career that included touring with the The Acting Company as Lady Macbeth and playing the title role in The French Lieutenant’s Woman at the Fulton Opera House. Her most recent appearance, outside of the numerous productions of Nine Parts, was in Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, a summer 2008 production of Playwrights Horizons.