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Criminal Queerness Festival

June 21-29

PAC NYC, 251 Fulton Street

Celebrate Pride Month, resistance, and love with National Queer Theater’s Criminal Queerness Festival. Across the globe, queer artists risk censorship, imprisonment, and violence for simply sharing their truth. Since 2019, the Criminal Queerness Festival has produced playwrights from Syria, Venezuela, Uganda, Kenya, Iraq, China, Pakistan, Tanzania, Egypt, Mexico, India, Lebanon, and Poland.

After three successful years at Lincoln Center, we are moving to the Perelman Performing Arts Center for two full weeks of shows. We are so thrilled to be bringing this work to a broader audience, and also increasing our run from three days to two weeks.


We are so excited to be a part of PAC NYC’s new history by being part of their inaugural season of programming. At National Queer Theater, amplifying marginalized queer voices is one of our most important missions. We’ve been embodying this commitment since our founding five years ago, and the Criminal Queerness Festival has been one of our most important events. In countries where queerness is criminalized, suppressed, or censored, creating queer art can be a precarious act. We strive to create the space for queer artists to actualise their art with safety, empowerment, and love.

What's Playing?

The Survival

June 22 at 8:00pm (Talkback), June 23 at 3:00pm, June 26 at 7:00pm, June 27 at 7:00pm


Written by Achiro P. Olwoch

Directed by Nadia Guevara

Starring Janet Kilonzo, Ash Mayers, R Jahan, Tyler Bey,
Jha'Neal Blue, and Kkuumba Siegell

Achan, feeling pressure from her mother for not yet being married at 27, falls for Oyat after meeting him at a bar. Unbeknownst to Achan, Oyat is hoping she will be a surrogate for him and his boyfriend’s child. When Achan learns the truth from Oyat’s boyfriend, John, she must confront her own traditional upbringing to find love and new notions of family in modern Uganda.

Content disclosure: Contains mention of rape, homophobia, miscarriage, and war
Originally produced
 at the 2022 Criminal Queerness Festival at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

She He Me

June 21 at 8:00pm, June 22 at 2:00pm, June 23 at 8:00pm (Talkback)

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Written by Raphaël Amahl Khouri

Directed by Dmitri Barcomi

Starring Amaal Saifudeen, Louis Sallan, Shaan Dasani

She He Me is the first Arab transgender play. It follows the true stories of three Arab characters who challenge gender norms. Randa is an Algerian transwoman who is expelled under the threat of death from her homeland because of her LGBT activism there. Omar is a Jordanian gay man, who, rather than body dysphoria, suffers social dysphoria when it comes to the strict codes of masculinity imposed and expected of him by both the heterosexual and gay community around him. Rok is a Lebanese transman. His main challenge is convincing his very conservative religious mother that her daughter is actually a boy. Through humor and horror, the three characters come up against the state, society, and family, but also themselves.

Content disclosure: Contains domestic violence, police violence and sexual abuse.
ally produced for the 2020 Criminal Queerness Festival with Dixon Place. Photo courtesy of Kosmos Theater in Vienna.

Waafrika 123: A Queerly Scripted Tragic Rise to African Fantasia

June 28 at 8:00pm (Talkback), June 29 at 2:00pm


Written by Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko

Directed by é boylan

Starring Temidayo Amay, Bernadette Mira Hagen, Christopher Tucker, Shiro Kihagi, Amari Flynn, and Le'Asha Julius

On the eve of Kenya’s first democratic elections, the rural village of Luoland is brewing with tension. Although queerness ‘doesn’t exist’ in Kenya, Bobby, an American lesbian, falls in love with Awino, a trans man from the Luo tribe. To complicate matters, Awino’s father is the tribe’s Chief, who steadfastly enforces the tribe’s traditions and codes. When famine strikes, the villagers blame the queer couple, and Awino is sent away to be ‘circumcised’ by force. Will Awino and Bobby have to separate for the good of their community? Or will the village be forced to reckon with change?

Content disclosure: Contains depictions of transphobic, homophobic, and misogynistic violence, language describing sexual assault, and self-harm.
riginally produced at the 2019 Criminal Queerness Festival at IRT Theater.

Creative Team

  • Begsy Inal (Dramaturg, All)

  • Vaibu Mohan (Production Manager, All)

  • Emani Simpson (Stage Manager, Waafrika 123)

  • Kevin Jinghong Zhu (Stage Manager, She He Me)

  • Jordan Baptiste (Stage Manager, The Survival)

  • Riw Rakkulchon (Props/Scenic Designer, All)

  • Moneé Stamp (Lighting Designer, All)

  • Ryan Gamblin (Sound Designer, All)

  • Jason Goodwin (Costume Designer, All)

  • Joseph Hayes (Casting Director, All)

  • Maria Mukuka (Dialect Coach, All)

  • Ann C. James (Intimacy Director, Waafrika 123)

  • Mari Moriarty (Intimacy Coordinator, She He Me)

  • Calvin Atkinson (Fight Choreographer, The Survival)


Criminal Queerness Festival is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the JKW Foundation.

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Artistic Freedom Initiative

Led by immigration and human rights attorneys, Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) facilitates pro bono immigration representation and resettlement assistance for international artists at risk.

Visual Echoes for Human Rights Advocacy

VEHRA Is a registered youth-led LGBT organization founded in 2017 to advocate for the rights and freedoms of sexual minority groups in Uganda through sport, art and economic empowerment.

Perelman Performing Arts Center

PAC NYC is a new home for emergent and established artists in theater, dance, music, opera, and multi-disciplinary performance from New York and the world.


Heritage of Pride works toward a future without discrimination where all people have equal rights under the law. We do this by producing LGBTQIA+ Pride events that inspire, educate, commemorate and celebrate our diverse community.

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