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The Criminal Queerness Festival

Global stories for global impact.


Bringing together renowned queer playwrights from around the world, National Queer Theater and Dixon Place are providing a platform for artists facing censorship, shining a light on critical stories from across the globe. In order to build a truly global queer community, these writers are inspiring activism and shaping our culture towards the equitable treatment of LGBTQ people around the world. A Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact awardee, the festival is proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for community engagement and outreach. Don’t miss The New York Times and The Advocate recommended theatrical event of the Pride season!

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"Don't skip" - New York Times

"Not to be missed" - Instinct Magazine 

"One of six ways to resist at WorldPride" - The Advocate 

"Can't miss...The National Queer Theater is giving a censorship-free voice to four international playwrights whose stories of love, oppression, and injustice shed light on the paucity of civil rights progress made in other parts of the world."

- Thrillist 

"Brilliant...The work itself will charm the socks off you. Another resounding success by National Queer Theater." - Hi! Drama

2019 Production Team


Producer: Adam Odsess-Rubin

Stage Manager: Jiawen Hu

Scenic/Props Design: Riw Rakkulchon

Sound Designer: Chris Darbassie

Lighting Designer: Leslie Gray

Costume Designer: Jules Peiperl

Production Manager: Brian Cummins

Assistant Stage Manager: Jess Orense

Assistant Stage Manager: Marcos Ospina

Dramaturg: Linnea Valdivia

Box Office Manager: Ben Jones

Photographer: Sean Velasco-Dodge

Press Representative: Stuart Richardson

Volunteer Coordinator: Amy Ackerman

Production Assistant: Joshua Bouchard

Administrative Intern: Evan Greene

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EGYPT--  Drowning in Cairo 


Directed by Celine Rosenthal

Featuring: Noor Hamdi, Fady Kerko, Arif Silverman*

June 13-16

It is May 2001 in Cairo. Moody, Khalid, and their servant Taha are on the Queen Boat, a gay nightclub docked on the Nile. When an unexpected police raid results in the arrest and public humiliation of the attendees, the lives of these young men are altered forever. Drowning in Cairo weaves budding romances, class differences, and familial expectations into a loving portrait of three men who all struggle to rebuild their lives against all odds.

Adam A. Elsayigh is a playwright, producer, and scholar. Through his playwriting (The House of Grandma Hanem, Drowning in Cairo, and Ramadan on 42nd Street) and curatorial initiatives, Adam interrogates issues of race, colonialism and the experience of queerness in the Middle East. Adam is currently translating a collection of Egyptian short plays to English, curating the upcoming Criminal Queerness Festival of New Plays with The National Queer Theater, and workshopping his upcoming play, Ramadan on 42nd Street. Adam holds a BA in Theater with emphasis on Playwriting, Dramaturgy and World Theater from NYU Abu Dhabi. 


TANZANIA -- Waafrika 123


Directed by Éamon Boylan

Featuring: James A. Pierce III,* Renelle Chorilette Wilson, Paris Dickenson, Karen Eilbacher,* Shiro Kihagi, T Thompson*


June 20-23

Content Warning: Depictions of transphobic, homophobic, and misogynistic violence, language describing sexual assault and self harm. 

1992. Kenya. On the eve of the country’s first democratic elections, everyone is brewing with expression, including a remote rural village called Luoland located some 250 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. There, although lesbians and queers ‘don’t exist’ in Kenya, two queer people fall in love: Bobby, an American development worker and Awino from the Luo tribe. To complicate matters, Awino’s father is also the Chief who enforces traditions and codes. So when famine strikes, the villagers blame the queer couple for the many deaths by starvation. To regain equilibrium, to make everything “normal” once again, Awino – trans, queer and African – must be “circumcised” – by force – so Awino can act like "a real African woman" rather than a woman “who wants to be” a man, and Bobby must leave. Will Awino and Bobby agree to separate for the good of their community? Will the village itself change? Or will Awino's resilience and resistance give birth to Queer Africa?  


Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko is a trans, queer, non-binary (NB), Tanzanian-American, poet-playwright-fiction-essayist Plays include: 37, S.T.A.R: Marsha P. Johnson; two queer African trilogies Waafrika and Waafrika 123; the QTPOC trans masculine THEY/THEM (TBA/Theater Bay Area); the queer apocalypse Homeless in the AfterLife; Blueprint for an African Lesbian; SH/Eroe; Asymmetrical We; Brotherly Love; Trailer Park Tundra; Once A Man Always A Man; Mama Afrika; Queering MacBeth; Life Is About the Kill; That Day God Visits You; Ata; To Dyke Trans; Gayze and many more. Residencies include Resilience and Development (R&D) Writers’ Lab with Crowded Fire Theater Company in San Francisco (2017-2018); New York City’s EWG (Emerging Writers’ Group) at the Public Theater sponsored by Time Warner Co.; New York City’sGroundbreakers Group, Djerassi Artist Residency in northern California, Freedom Train Productions, Ragged Wing Ensemble and more. Nick is a 2018 finalist for Africa’s Gerald Kraak Award; a two-time recipient of the Creativity Fundissued by the Public Theater and Time Warner, and a 2017 Spring grantee of a Theatre Bay Area (TBA) Individual Artist Cash grant. Nick graduated Magna Cum Laude at Columbia University for undergrad and completed an MFA at Columbia University as a Point Scholar, the nation’s largest LGBTQIA scholarship fund, and was awarded a Columbia University Fellowship for theater at the same time.  

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PAKISTAN -- Jhaanjar Di Paanwan Chhankaar

Adapted from Butterflies are Free

By Leonard Gershe


Directed by Nicky Maggio

Featuring: Arjun Dhawan, Danish Farooqui,* Uma Paranjpe, Mahima Saigal, 

June 27-30

Aspiring musician, Hamza decides to live away from his overprotective mother, Mrs. Sohail. Living in an apartment that he is still getting used to, a random, free-spirited neighbor, Zaman walks into his apartment one day, and they begin to bond. Mrs. Sohail makes a surprise visit and she begins to question everything Hamza has chosen to do. After asserting his desires and dreams to his mother, Hamza reminds her that she has the impetus to his empowerment while growing up and would like to continue on living his life with the independence she had prepared him for as a child.


Fatima Maan is a playwright and director based in Lahore, Pakistan. She obtained her BA (Hons) from NYU Abu Dhabi in Theater and Economics. Her play, Humera was presented at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts & Humanities Capstone Festival, AKS International Minorities Festival, Lahore, and Queer Asia conference in London. Her play Jhaanjar Di Paanwan Chhankaar, toured Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to packed audiences. Fatima's ultimate aim is to create theater that addresses issues less talked about in the Pakistani society: pushing audiences to think critically, and hence leading to a more progressive, self-reflexive and aware society.

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CHINA -- Joker


Directed by Gaven Trinidad

Featuring: Sergio Mauritz Ang,* Ronald Kuang, Kristi Donna Ng, Jeremy Rafal

July 3-6

A Filipino gay writer and activist settles into a straight marriage in Hawai'i to keep a promise he's made. The tenuous calm is rocked by the arrival of a former friend of his from the Philippines. Will the life he carefully constructed crush around him? Set during the run-up to marriage equality in Hawai'i, Joker explores love, loss and the power of our promises.


Yilong Liu is a New York-based playwright, born and raised in Chongqing, China. His work has been produced or developed at East West Players, Queens Theatre, FringeNYC, Kumu Kahua Theatre, New Ohio Theatre, CAATA, Union Theatre (London), and others. Awards include Kennedy Center's Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award (The Book of Mountains and Seas), Paula Vogel Playwriting Award (June is The First Fall), Po’okela Award for Best New Play (Joker), and an EST/Sloan Project New Play Commission. Currently, he is a Resident Playwright at The Flea Theatre and a Greenhouse Resident at SPACE on Ryder Farm.

*These Actors are appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association

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