Criminal Queerness Festival To Premier At The Perelman For Pride Month 2024

The 2024 CQF will feature productions of Achiro P. Olwoch's The Survival, Raphaël Amahl Khouri's She He Me, and more.

By: Oct. 02, 2023
Criminal Queerness Festival To Premier At The Perelman For Pride Month 2024

National Queer Theater's Criminal Queerness Festival, an annual international theater festival that serves as the official theater partner of NYC Pride, will take place in June 2024 at the Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC) at the World Trade Center. Back for its sixth year and premiering for the first time at PAC NYC, the CQF uplifts and celebrates queer and trans artists around the world who have the guts to risk it all–censorship, imprisonment, and violence–for simply sharing their truth. 

The Criminal Queerness Festival was previously produced at IRT Theater, Dixon Place, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts after receiving a 2020 NYC Mayor's Grant for Cultural Impact. The 2024 CQF will feature productions of Achiro P. Olwoch's The Survival, Raphaël Amahl Khouri's She He Me, and Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko's Waafrika 123. The 2024 festival celebrates groundbreaking plays from the first five years of the festival, including those that didn't get a full production because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Achiro P. Olwoch The Survival  Synopsis:

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.

Playwright Bio:

Achiro Patricia Olwoch hails from Gulu, in Northern Uganda, and she is a writer, playwright and filmmaker. She is currently an artist-at-risk in residence in New York. Achiro lives to write, and she writes to live. She has a good sense of imagination, and even though she bases her writing on real-life situations, she adds a twist of imagination to each and every story. She writes because she would like to make a difference in her community through the different stories that she has to tell. Her stories start conversations and lend a voice to the people that she writes about who are not able to tell their own stories. Her plays, On Time, No Cause, The Child Bride, Esterina, and The Surrogate, have had readings and performances around the world. Her present play, The Survival, was born from The Surrogate, and it has taken shape over the years from the changing laws against homosexuality in Uganda. She presently volunteers as the Africa representative on the Women Playwrights International Management Committee and serves as part of the Artistic Collective with the National Queer Theater. In addition, Achiro is currently a part of the Scholars at Risk program and the Weiss International Fellow at Barnard College.

Raphaël Amahl Khouri She He Me Synopsis:

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. 

Playwright Bio:

Raphael Khouri is a queer, transgender Arab documentary playwright and theatremaker living between Berlin and Egypt. Khouri is the author of several plays, including the first-ever trans Arab play, She He Me (Criminal Queerness Festival 2020 & 2024). Their other plays include ICH BRAUCHE MEINE RUHE (I Need My Rest) (Munich 2018) and No Matter Where I Go (Beirut 2014). Khouri is also a part of the Climate Change Theater Action; their play Oh, How We Loved Our Tuna! was read internationally as part of the initiative. Khouri was a selected playwright at the Arcola Global Queer Plays (London 2018) and the hotINK at The Lark international play reading series (New York 2015), among many other fellowships and grants. They were also commissioned to write and feature new work for Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast in 2019 and 2020. Khouri's work will also appear in the upcoming International Queer Drama anthology published by Neofelis Verlag in 2020 and the Methuen Anthology of Trans Plays, also out later this year.

Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko Waafrika 123 Synopsis:

On the eve of the country's first democratic elections, everyone is brewing with expression, even in the tiny, rural village, Luoland, with no electricity or running water some 250 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. There, although lesbians ‘don't exist' in Kenya, two women fall in love: Bobby, a blond 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 lesbians for the many, many deaths by starvation. To regain equilibrium, to make everything “normal” once again, Awino – butch bordering on trans – must be “circumcised” – by force – so s/he can act like a real 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? Or will the village itself change?

Playwright Bio:

Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko is a third-culture, non-binary, trans queer Tanzanian-American raised in East and Central Africa and currently living in the United States. Nick was recently awarded the New Visions Fellowship for Black Gender Non-Conforming and Trans Playwrights by the Dramatist Guild of America and National Queer Theater. Nick is a nominated member of the nationally accredited Playwright Foundations' RPI, Resident Playwright Initiative.

Nick was a member of The Public Theater's (New York City) Emerging Writers' Group (EWG), Crowded Fire Writers' Lab (San Francisco), and countless other residencies. Nick was a dramaturg for the National Conservatory Theater Center (San Francisco). Nick received a B.A. from Columbia University in New York City, graduating Magna Cum Laude (high honors) and was a Point Scholar (largest global LGBTQIA+ scholarship foundation) during Nick's entire MFA at Columbia University in New York City. Nick attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop thanks to a Normal Felton Fellowship. Some of Nick's award-winning plays include Waafrika 1-2-3, They/Them/Theirs, Silence Is A Sound, Asymmetrical We, Blueprint for a Lesbian Planet, Bluest, Brotherly Love, Good Grief, Trailer Park Tundra, Once A Man Always A Man, Mama Afrika, Life Is About the Kill, Homeless in the Afterlife, Ata, 37, S.T.A.R: Marsha P. Johnson, Jizz, Pence At the Border, and others. Nick's plays have been produced in New York City, New Jersey, Florida, Berkeley, San Francisco, Wisconsin, Paris, South Africa, Italy, Germany, and other countries.

Founded in 2018, the CQF provides a platform for LGBTQ+ artists and audiences, local and abroad, to learn about the continued fight for queer and trans liberation all around the world. In more than 70 countries globally, being LGBTQ+ is criminalized. In 12 countries, queer and trans individuals could be given the death penalty based on their sexuality. Over the years, the CQF has produced playwrights from Syria, Venezuela, Uganda, Kenya, Iraq, China, Pakistan, Tanzania, Egypt, Mexico, India, Lebanon, Poland and Ukraine. 
This 2024 event at PAC NYC will feature productions of each play, as well as workshops and panels with the playwrights and other International Artists and activists. Tickets for the festival will be available through the PAC NYC website this fall, 2023.

“Having my play performed at the PAC center, knowing the history of the World Trade Center carries with it so much emotion of loss, survival and rebuilding,” said Olwoch, playwright of The Survival, to be featured at the 2024 Criminal Queerness Festival. “In a way, it is the best place for my play, which would never be allowed in Uganda and carries with it such emotion, loss and survival in its own right. I feel honored and grateful.”

PAC NYC is a dynamic new home for the arts, serving audiences and the creative sector through flexible venues enabling the facility to embrace wide-ranging artistic programs. The inaugural year will feature commissions, world premieres, co-productions, and collaborative work across theater, dance, music, opera, film and more. The vision for PAC NYC began when then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his team worked to ensure the plan for rebuilding the World Trade Center site included a performing arts center.
For more information about the Criminal Queerness Festival, visit
For more information about National Queer Theater, visit

About National Queer Theater National Queer Theater

(NQT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit theater company based in New York City, dedicated to celebrating the brilliance of generations of LGBTQ+ artists and providing a home for unheard storytellers and activists. By serving elders, youth, and working professionals, NQT creates a more just future through radical and evocative theater experiences and free community classes. Believing in the power of theater to effect sweeping social change, NQT cultivates a more just, joyous, and empowered intersectional queer community that is celebrated in all corners of society. NQT was founded on the principle that through art and free community programs, we are able to create and organize together, working towards a more equitable vision of a world bursting with pride. For more information about NQT, visit

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