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Women's Studies Peace Week at Vassar will feature a performance of "Sounds of Desire" on September 23, 2010.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—To bring attention to peace activism around the world and in our  community, Vassar College will present the second annual Women’s Studies Peace Week held in conjunction with International Peace Day on Tuesday, September 21. A variety of activities will be open to the public, including a performance, panel discussion, and workshop. Vassar Visiting Artist Heather Raffo, an award‐winning playwright and actress, as well as noted composer and musician Amir ElSaffar, and three Arab maqam musicians Hadi el Debek, Johnny Farraj, and Gaida Hinnawi will be featured in Raffo and ElSaffar’s original work Sounds of Desire on Thursday, September 23. The following day, Friday, September 24, ElSaffar will give a public presentation on the Iraqi maqam. All events are open to the public without charge, however reservations are requested for the performance on September 23. (Due to unforeseen complications, Heather Raffo will not deliver a lecture on Friday, September 24, at 2:00pm in Taylor Hall as previously scheduled. However she will perform Sounds of Desire on Thursday, September 23, at 7:00pm in the Martel Theater.)

About the Women’s Studies Peace Week events:

Panel Discussion: Peace and Conflict Resolution Fellowships
Wednesday, September 22, at 3:30pm
College Center, Multi-Purpose Room

A panel discussion on Wednesday, September 22, will feature Peace and Conflict Resolution fellowship recipients. Previous recipients of four fellowship programs — Tanenbaum Peace Fellowship (Stephanie Damon-Moore), 100 Projects for PeaceBurnam Fellows Program (Kevin Guckin '11 and Rokuhei Fukui '12), and Compton Mentor Fellowship (Jackson Kroompf '10) — will discuss their experiences and how to put together a competitive fellowship application. Sponsored by Women's Studies Peace Week, Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Religious and Spiritual Life, and the Office for Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising, the program will begin at 3:30pm in the College Center's Multi-Purpose Room. 

Performance of Sounds of Desire
By Heather Raffo and Amir ElSaffar
Thursday, September 23, at 7:00pm
Martel Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film

Heather Raffo and Amir ElSaffar co-creators of Sounds of Desire will perform their original work with three Arab maqam musicians: Hadi el Debek, Johnny Farraj, and Gaida Hinnawi. This evening of spoken word and melodic music will draw on Raffo and ElSaffar’s respective Iraqi and American roots and includes the addition of Arab maqam music to the characters drawn from Raffo’s acclaimed one-woman show 9 Parts of Desire. The award-winning work painted a portrait of a cross-section of Iraqi women: a painter, a radical Communist, doctors, exiles, wives, and lovers. Raffo noted it presents “many conflicting aspects of what it means to be a woman” in Iraq during a time of war. The New Yorker said her off Broadway one-woman show was “An example of how art can remake the world! A triumph! Thrilling!” Sounds of Desire was recently featured at the Kennedy Center. Please note that seating is limited for this production and reservations are requested. For tickets, contact the Vassar College Drama Department by emailing boxoffice@vassar.edu, calling (845) 437-5599, or visiting the box office in person Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:00am - 4:00pm. Reservations open to the general public on September 16 (for the Vassar community on September 9).

Workshop by Amir ElSaffar
“An Exploration of the Iraqi Maqam: Theory and Practice”
Friday, September 24, at 10:00am
Villard Room, Main Building

Amir ElSaffar, co-creator and composer of Sounds of Desire, will lead a workshop entitled “An Exploration of the Iraqi Maqam: Theory and Practice.” ElSaffar is an Iraqi-American trumpeter, santour player, vocalist, and composer. According to Philadephia City Paper’s Shaun Brady who chose his recording Two Rivers as a top ten jazz CD of 2007, ElSaffar “combines his dual heritage into a vigorous hybrid… [and] weaves mesmerizing new tunes out of traditional Iraqi maqam.”

Lecture by Heather Raffo is postponed until spring 2011
“Performing Multiple Truths against One-Dimensional Representations: The Process and Politics of Staging a One-Woman Show about Iraq”

Due to unforeseen complications, Heather Raffo will not deliver the lecture on Friday, September 24, at 2:00pm in Taylor Hall as previously scheduled. However she will perform Sounds of Desire on Thursday, September 23, at 7:00pm in the Martel Theater as scheduled. 

Heather Raffo will deliver a talk to the campus about her acclaimed work 9 Parts of  Desire entitled “Performing Multiple Truths against One-Dimensional Representations: The Process and Politics of Staging a One-Woman Show about Iraq.” She has noted that this play is “a dialogue between east and west. The characters are deeply engaged in circumstances unique to them as Iraqis and yet through their passions seem to answer the concerns of the west. ... 9 Parts of Desire is also about the need for feminine strength as a necessary part of any culture's endurance.”

As a 2010-11 Visiting Artist at Vassar, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, Heather Raffo will return to the college during the spring 2011 semester for a six-week residency, when she will engage students from a variety of disciplines. She will be working with them on the development of her latest work that explores post‐2010 occupied Iraq. Raffo will weave together the stories of three historic Iraqi maqam musicians with stories of contemporary Iraqis, using the structure of the classical maqam as a foundation for the play itself. She plans to work closely with faculty and students to explore several questions that are central to the development of her new play, concerning peace, justice, identity, minority communities, and art.

About Women’s Studies Peace Week

The goal of Women’s Studies Peace Week, according to history professor Lydia Murdoch, director of the Women’s Studies Program, “is to raise awareness about the multiple forms of  violence we all face—everything from domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault to social injustice and poverty to war—while, at the same time, creating forums through which we can articulate and practice the experience of living in peace, free from violence.”  Quoting from the film featured during the 2009 events (Pray the Devil Back to Hell), Murdoch noted that “we seek to promote the idea that ‘peace is a process, not an event,’ which requires coalition building, respect for all human life, and tenacity.”  

Women’s Studies Peace Week is supported by funds from the Visiting Artists at Vassar program, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, and is co-sponsored by the offices of Campus Life, Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising, Health Education, Religious and Spiritual Life; the departments of Drama, Education, Music, Political Science; and the programs of American Culture, International Studies, and Women’s Studies at Vassar.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.


Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, September 2, 2010