We chat with actor and director Lillete Dubey after a gruelling 12-hour long rehearsal about her latest production, 9 Parts of Desire, yet she still sounds eager to talk about it. Based on the award-winning one-woman play by Heather Raffo, Dubey’s production will feature her daughter, Ira Dubey, portraying the lives of nine Iraqi women, spanning across different eras and ages, including that of a doctor, an artist, a child, a political exile and many others.
Raffo’s original play was inspired by a trip to an art museum in Baghdad in 1993 and spanned the decades between the first and second Gulf wars. Lillete explains that her sister Lushin had watched the production at the Edinburgh International Festival and had the script. Subsequently, Ira who was impressed with the challenging play decided to be a part of it. “There are nine parts featuring women of different ages, backgrounds and political ethos. It is powerful as well as poignant and funny and universally relevant ,” explains Lillete.
A challenge to be taken
The play is also about how life goes on despite the challenges, how a child, even in a war-torn world, might play with bullets but still love boy bands and how people try to lead as normal a life as possible in trying times.
Ira admits that acting in this production was exhausting and a challenge for her, especially because the play, in itself, is a microcosm of society: “It requires me to move between characters who are snapshots of living, breathing people. At the same time, the play is not a feminist take; it is about daily life in Iraq during that period when a whole generation suffered. The main issues are love, freedom, peace and survival.”
Lillete adds that as an actor, it is a challenge to be alone on stage. “It’s just your body, voice, gestures and a minimal change of clothes to denote each change of character,” she observes, adding that it made her wonder why there aren’t similar monologues based in India. She also admits that directing one person is easier but challenging as the onus of the play lies on one person.
From mother to director
Lillete states that directing Ira wasn’t a tough task. “I do push her to do the best she can. We have worked together in my previous productions and thus, we know each other’s style.” Describing her mother as a “strict disciplinarian and a tough director”, Ira admits that this time around, it was more intense and quiet, than her earlier experiences as they were on the same wavelength. As the playwright, Heather helped the duo understand terms and the milieu in which the play is set. “She was excited with the play being staged in India and efforts are afoot for her to attend the event premiere,” concludes Lillete.