Criminal Queerness Festival Will Be Held For WorldPride 2019

By: Apr. 09, 2019

Today, National Queer Theater announced the inaugural Criminal Queerness Festival, an official WorldPride partner event, which will take place 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 the 70 countries where it is still illegal to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender.

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 feature the work of four LGBTQ playwrights originating from Egypt, China, Tanzania, and Pakistan. Together, these pieces represent the common cause of equality shared by all LGBTQ people, wherever they may reside in the world.

The Criminal Queerness Festival is presented as part of IRT Theater's 3B Development Series. Each play 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.


Drowning in Cairo, by Adam Ashraf Elsayigh (Egypt)

June 13-16, 2019

Directed by Celine Rosenthal

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, by Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko (Tanzania)

June 20-23, 2019

Directed by Eamon Boylan

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, by Fatima Maan (Pakistan)

June 20-23, 2019

Directed by Nicky Maggio

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.

Joker, by Yilong Liu (China)

July 3-6, 2019

Directed by Gaven Trinidad

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.


The Criminal Queerness Festival, presented by National Queer Theater as part of IRT Theater's 3B Development Series, showcases the top LGBTQ plays from around the world focusing on the 70 countries where it is illegal to be LGBTQ. The festival challenges audiences to engage and reflect upon the status of civil rights in the United States in order to better support LGBTQ people abroad. Through their work, the participating playwrights inspire activism and shape our culture towards the equitable treatment of LGBTQ people globally.

In its first year, the Criminal Queerness Festival coincides with WorldPride 2019 and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. All performances will take place between June 13 and July 7, 2019, at IRT Theater at 154 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014. Shows will begin at 8pm Thursday through Sunday. There is a matinee performance on Saturday at 2pm. Festival partners include Heritage of Pride/NYC Pride, Stonewall Community Foundation, and Trans Pride Pakistan (Track-T).


Founded in 2018, National Queer Theater is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster and support LGBTQ communities through social justice in the performing arts. By producing socially-conscious plays about issues in the community, the theater raises awareness about LGBTQ rights in the general public. Through partnership-based education programs, National Queer Theater teaches acting and storytelling skills to underserved groups in the LGBTQ community to instill pride and promote creative leadership. The theater accomplishes its mission through three primary initiatives: mainstage productions, new play development, and education and community programs.