News: Inaugural Criminal Queerness Festival, June 13-July 7

The National Queer Theater, 
which fosters and supports LGBTQ+ communities through social justice in the performing arts, produces socially-conscious plays about issues in the community, and raises awareness about LGBTQ rights, has announced the inaugural Criminal Queerness Festival. The first-of-its-kind festival, sponsored by WorldPride and the Stonewall Community Foundation, will take place from June 13 - July 7, 2019 at IRT Theater. Coinciding with WorldPride 2019 and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the festival explores the criminalization of LGBTQ communities in some 70 countries where same-sex sexual relations are punishable by law and queer artists are otherwise censored. In its inaugural year, the Criminal Queerness Festival will feature the work of four LGBTQ playwrights originating from Egypt, China, Tanzania, and Pakistan. 
The Criminal Queerness Festival is presented as part of IRT Theater’s 3B Development Series, and festival partners include Immigration Equality, Heritage of Pride/NYC Pride, Stonewall Community Foundation, and Trans Pride Pakistan (Track-T). 

Each play (see below for synopses) will be staged five times between June 13 and July 7, 2019. All performances will take place at IRT Theater at 154 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014. Shows will begin at 8pm Thursday through Sunday. There will be an additional matinee on Saturday at 2pm. An additional show on Wednesday, July 3 will replace the normally scheduled performance on July 4. 

Festival plays:

Drowning in Cairo
Written by Adam Ashraf Elsayigh (Egypt) Directed by Celine Rosenthal 
June 13-16, 2019

It is May 2001 in Cairo. Two friends, Moody and Khalid, as well as 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.

Waafrika 123
Written by Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko (Tanzania) Directed by Eamon Boylan 
June 20-23, 2019

1992. Kenya. On the eve of the country’s first democratic elections, everyone is brewing with expression, including in 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?

An Adaptation of ‘Butterflies Are Free’, by Leonard Gersche: Jhaanjar Di Paanwan Chhankaar 
Written by Fatima Maan (Pakistan) Directed by Nicky Maggio 
June 27-30, 2019

An 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.

Written by Yilong Liu (China) Directed by Gaven Trinidad 
July 3-6, 2019

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. 


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