Heather Raffo’s Noura Arrives in Abu Dhabi, Directed by NYU Abu Dhabi’s Joanna Settle

Settle directs a Shakespeare Theater Company production of a new play that explores the meaning of ‘home’

Press Release

Culminating its third season, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) hosts the Middle East premiere of Noura this May, a production directed by newly appointed NYUAD Associate Arts Professor Joanna Settle.  This groundbreaking production of Heather Raffo’s thought-provoking play received broad acclaim in a its recent world premiere produced by Washington DC’s Shakespeare Theater Company, in association with Octopus Theatricals.

Award-winning playwright and performer Heather Raffo (9 Parts of Desire) brings us the story of Noura and her husband Tariq – Iraqi immigrants in New York – as they welcome a special guest to their Christmas celebrations. But the arrival of this guest – Maryam, a young Iraqi refugee – changes the dynamic of the festivities, forcing Noura and her family to face old fears, and question who they have become and how they’ve got to where they are now.

Noura is directed by Joanna Settle, who joined the NYUAD theater program as Associate Arts Professor of Theater in September 2017, as she makes her MENA directorial debut. Settle’s extensive career as a theater director includes the world premiere of Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s recent musical The Total Bent in a twice-extended run at New York’s Public Theater, and she is set to premiere an opera with Opera Philadelphia later this year. Other credits include Winter Miller's In Darfur and the Finale of Suzan-Lori Park's 365 Plays/365 Days. She also directed the world premiere of Heather Raffo’s celebrated Nine Parts of Desire at Manhattan Ensemble Theater, and for subsequent productions at theaters and art museums around the US.

Joanna Settle, theater professor, poses in the Red Theater at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center.

Directing Noura has been a gratifying process for Settle, who says: “I feel so fortunate to engage in a work rooted in family, feminism, and motherhood with my friend and collaborator of 13 years, Heather Raffo. The depth our relationship took this rehearsal process into genuinely personal terrain. It’s a very honest and personal work for us both. I’m deeply moved to have the opportunity to share it in my new home of Abu Dhabi.”

In addition to performing in the title role of Noura, Heather Raffo, writer of the show, draws on personal stories of Arab American women responding to A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama of one mother’s struggle to balance her duty with her identity. DC Metro Theater Arts states that: “Raffo’s script bounces effortlessly between humor and strained arguments…It’s one of the most realistic plays I’ve seen in the last few years.”

Bill Bragin, executive artistic director at The Arts Center at NYUAD, said: “Noura richly evokes so many themes that resonate locally - themes of cultural change across the Arab diaspora, of identity, of migration, of gender relations, and of the sacrifices one makes for their family. I’ve long been a fan of Joanna Settle’s and Heather Raffo’s theatrical work, and have been watching the development of Noura from an early stage, before we ever dreamed we’d be lucky enough for Joanna Settle to join the NYU Abu Dhabi faculty as a colleague. It’s especially meaningful to us to close The Arts Center’s third season by introducing extraordinary directorial work of Joanna Settle to her new hometown community in Abu Dhabi. And Heather Raffo’s beautifully sensitive performance, and layered writing, will be a revelation for theater audiences across the UAE. “

Heather Raffo is the solo performer and writer of the Off Broadway hit, 9 Parts of Desire which details the lives of nine Iraqi women. Heather first performed 9 Parts of Desire in August 2003 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, before moving on to London and New York. Such international shows have welcomed many awards, including a Lucille Lortel Award, and the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn and Marian Seldes- Garson Kanin playwriting awards, as well as Helen Hayes, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League nominations, for outstanding performance.

Noura will also welcome to The Red Theater Stage Nabil Elouahabi, a British-Moroccan actor best known for his time in British TV soap opera, Eastenders.

The cast also includes: Dahlia Azama as Maryam, Matthew David as Rafa’a, Ni Qasey - recorded voices/translations, and Logan Settle Rishard as Yazen/Alex.

Artistic credits include: Andrew Lieberman - Scenic Design, Tilly Grimes - Costume Design, Masha Tsimring - Lighting Design, and Obadiah Eaves - Sound Design.

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About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.