News: Inaugural Criminal Queerness Festival Opens June 13 with Plays from 4 International Artists

JUNE 13 - JULY 7, 2019

We've posted about the the inaugural Criminal Queerness Festival before on Thinking Theater NYC, and two weeks from opening seems like a good time to post a reminder about what looks to be a very intriguing lineup of extremely timely productions from a group of international playwrights. (Look for a review on this site of Adam Ashraf Elsayigh's Drowning in Cairo once the festival is underway).

To recap:

The Criminal Queerness Festival, sponsored by WorldPride and the Stonewall Community Foundation, will be the product of The National Queer Theater, an organization founded in 2018 with the mission of fostering and supporting LGBTQIA+ communities through social justice in the performing arts through partnership-based education programs and by producing socially-conscious plays about issues in the community. Coinciding with WorldPride 2019 and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the festival explores the criminalization of LGBTQIA+ communities in some 70 countries where same-sex sexual relations are punishable by law and queer artists are otherwise censored. The Festival's partners include Immigration Equality, Heritage of Pride/NYC Pride, Stonewall Community Foundation, and Trans Pride Pakistan (Track-T).

“The Criminal Queerness Festival is the first program of its kind, promoting the stories of LGBTQ playwrights from countries that criminalize same-sex relations,” said National Queer Theater founder and Artistic Director Adam Odsess-Rubin. “Around the world, we lose so many stories to censorship, violence, and fear. WorldPride is the perfect platform to showcase these artists' work for a global audience and raise awareness of human rights and freedom of expression.”

This year, the Criminal Queerness Festival will be presented as from June 13 to July 7, 2019 as part of IRT Theater’s 3B Development Series and will feature the work of four LGBTQIA+ playwrights originating from Egypt, China, Tanzania, and Pakistan, with hopes to challenge audiences to engage and reflect upon the status of civil rights in the United States in order to better support LGBTQIA+ people abroad.

Each play (detailed below) will be staged five times between, and all performances will take place at IRT Theater (154 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014). Shows will begin at 8 pm Thursday through Sunday. There will be an additional matinee on Saturday at 2 pm, and 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. While Hamza is living in an apartment that he is still getting used to, a random, free-spirited neighbor, Zaman walks in 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. (You can read Thinking Theater NYC's review of the March-April 2019 production of Yilong Liu's June is the First Fall here.)


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