Playwright. Producer. New Play Development.
ADAM A. ELSAYIGH
Adam A. Elsayigh is an Egyptian playwright, dramaturg, and producer. Through his writing and producing, Adam interrogates the intersections of queerness, immigration, and colonialism. Some of Adam's plays include Memorial, Jamestown/Williamsburg, and Drowning in Cairo. He is a fellow at Georgetown University's Laboratory for Global Performance and a Co-founder of The Criminal Queerness Festival. Adam's work has been seen at IRT Theater, Dixon Place, Golden Thread Productions, and The NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center. He holds a BA in Theater with an emphasis in Playwriting and Dramaturgy from NYU Abu Dhabi.
PLAYS AND PRODUCTION HISTORY
For excerpts, scripts, summaries and production histories of my plays, please visit my Profile on National Play Exchange (NPX)
It is 2019 and Diyala just moved from Syria to Williamsburg, Virginia on a student visa. It is also 1619 and Agnes just married the Lord of the Virginia Company in Jamestown, who happens to be sleeping with a Native American man. Agnes and Diyala are worlds apart, yet, what secrets are both of these women bringing with them to their new lives? What’s that kinship that binds them in a world that defies the logics of time and space? Jamestown/Williamsburg tells the story of the voyages and traumas of two immigrant women.
Memorial is a verbatim play that tells the story of the Christchurch Muslim community during and following the two mosque shootings that occurred on March 15th in Christchurch, New Zealand using embodied rituals and practices. Memorial chronicles the impact of the shootings, and systems of violence, through the words and experiences of seven citizens of Christchurch, focusing on the friends and families of those who were lost in the attacks. It also deeply engages with themes of migration, diaspora and the experience of otherness and xenophobia both within and outside communities.
It is May 2001 in Cairo. Moody, Khalid, and 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.
Sherif, an Egyptian asylum seeker turned celebrated playwright who moved to New York four years ago after facing criminal charges in Egypt for his homosexuality. When Sherif’s distant mother Maggie has to visit New York for stage-four cancer treatment, Sherif, his mother, his partner, and his mother’s snarky, religious nurse are forced to contend with each other in a particularly hungry summer that coincides with Ramadan.
When Mona and Dalia, two first-generation Egyptian-American girls on the precipice of adolescence, realize their mom is planning on "cutting them down there like girls do back home", they get together in the middle of the night and plot to flee their home. Their conversation reveals their family dynamic, their relationship to their homeland, and the tension between the immigrant parents and their children.
The House of Grandma Hanem tells the story of gay yet closeted Sherif who starts a pro-science, pro-human rights Youtube Vlog in conservative-Muslim Cairo, Egypt. When his Vlog goes viral, Sherif leaves his family with the decision to denounce one of their own, or support him and shame the name of the family. Simultaneously, his cousin, Sara, faces a question of faith and attempts to reconcile her understanding of religion when she falls in love with the secular, white German study abroad student in her university in Egypt.
This July, I was excited to be a part of a panel to open and introduce and announce the launch of The Digital Guide to Theatre of the Middle East. Catch the recording of the panel produced by Golden Thread Productions and hosted on the Howlround platform here. The Digital Guide to Theatre of the Middle East: 21st Century Volume provides essential information on the best-known, best-loved, most significant, and most influential plays/theatrical works written and/or performed in the MENA theatre in the last two decades.
This September, I was delighted to attend an in-person convening with the Laboratory For Global Performance & Politics's second cohort in New Mexico.
Happy to share that my co-written documentary Memorial is opening for a self-produced workshop production at LPAC later this October. Get your tickets here.
This Tuesday, the Lark, which has been a primary artistic home and where I have staffed for the past two years, announced that it will be closing its doors. The Lark has been a central artistic home to not only me but so many playwrights. While deeply saddened and frustrated by the circumstances that have lead to this decision, I am taking the time to reflect on the challenges of operating ethically within the theater nonprofit industrial complex and scheming with peers about alternative models and homes for furthering the indispensable work of new play development and global exchange that the Lark had supported in the field.
More exciting productions and announcements coming soon.
Flirting with the Taboo at the Cairo Festival for Contemporary & Experimental Theatre
October 31, 2018
“That was something, wasn’t it?,” my dad mutters with a forced nonchalance.
We are driving out of the parking lot of El Gomhoureya Theatre in downtown Cairo. It’s 9:55 p.m. on the 18th of September, day nine of the Cairo International Festival for Contemporary & Experimental Theatre (CIFCET).
Breaking the Migrant Archetype in The Raft (Shafq)
September 25, 2018
The Raft (Shafq), a Tunisian-Canadian co-production directed by Cyrine Gannoun and Majdi Bou Matar opened in Miami Theater in Downtown Cairo on the 12th of September. The performance was being brought to Cairo as a part of the programming for The Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theater (CIFCET).
How the Theatre Lab Disrupts the Echo Chamber with New Voices
September 26, 2019
It was lunchtime on the second day of the 2019 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, and I was eating a delicious plate of muhammara, a Syrian walnut spread, with pita bread when artist in residence Dima Matta asked me, “So where’s home for you?”
The Two-Fold Impact of COVID on Immigrant Artists
May 1, 2020
While we have turned our attention aggressively and obsessively to news media on how theaters have been closed, and how hospitals are overwhelmed by the spread of COVID-19, we tend to forget and neglect the impact on international artists, immigrants, and people who are stateless. In these past few months, there have been both increasing restrictions and uncertainty on travels and visas, as well as increasing xenophobia against people of Asian descent across the globe, but particularly in the U.S.
The Criminal Queerness Festival provides an artistic platform for global LGBTQ+ solidarity
June 25, 2020
In 2017, I started writing a play titled Drowning in Cairo. The play was based on real life stories and people I had connected with living as a gay man in Cairo, Egypt. Drowning in Cairo dramatizes the lives of three Egyptian men who were arrested on the Queen Boat in 2001, a real-life raid on a gay nightlife location in Cairo. Telling the story of the men’s lives from 1997 and 2017, the play reveals how they come to be shaped by the homophobia that queer people are so often placed within.
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Will Present Workshop Production Of The New Verbatim Play, Memorial
September 28, 2021
This October, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center is presenting a workshop production of the new verbatim play Memorial from October 27 - October 29, 2021 at The LaGuardia Performing Arts Center's MainStage Black Box, 31-10 Thomson Ave, Long Island City, NYC. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here. For press and industry comps, please reach out to the production team here.
At a Queer Theater Festival, the Plays Are Brazenly Personal
June 22, 2021
Dima Mikhayel Matta has written about her home city before with language like “In Beirut, the streets smell of jasmine and coffee, and the morning call to prayer mingles with church bells.”
Was it lyrical? Yes, Matta, a queer playwright from Lebanon, said during a recent video interview. Was it also rosy? Yes.
Podcast Episode on Thesis on Joan
Celebrate Pride with National Queer Theater’s Criminal Queerness Festival! Hosts are joined by director, playwright, actor, teaching artist and National Queer Theater (NQT) Artistic Director Adam Odsess-Rubin and playwright, dramaturg and Co-Producer of the Criminal Queerness Festival Adam A. El-Sayigh. In addition to the trio of shows for this year’s Criminal Queerness Festival we talk about fighting for queer liberation through art, queerness as a political act, a producing theater’s responsibility to artists, the many incredible programs offered by NQT, and the trials and tribulations of producing outdoor theater.
The Talkback Podcast: "A Criminal Queerness Roundtable" with Guests Adam Odsess-Rubin, Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, Victor I. Cazares, Dima Mikhayel Matta, and Martin Yousif Zebari
June 18, 2021
Joining me once again are the Producers of the National Queer Theater's Criminal Queerness Festival - Adam Odsess-Rubin and Adam Ashraf Elsayigh. But, they didn’t come alone. I have the absolute pleasure of chatting with the three incredible Playwrights who’s work is betting presented in this year’s festival! Joining me is Victor I. Cazares, Dima Mikhayel Matta, and Martin Yousif Zebari! We chat about their journey's, their writing process the art they make and the world as a whole. It's truly a full episode!
LPAC's Beyond The Mask Festival presents Jamestown/Williamsburg.
September 22, 2020
From October 12th to the 17th, The LaGuardia Performing Arts Center is excited to offer a virtual theatre festival with a social mission including Jamestown/Williamsburg. The festival will celebrate MENA artists and invite them into conversations with scholars, experts, panelists and moderators as we examine what it means to create art during a pandemic and how the idea of identity and globalization has evolved in the past year. Through play readings, panel discussions and moderated talkbacks we will look at crisis, identity and globalization in the times of COVID19 and ask, "who are we, where have we been, and where are we going?"
AFAC Announces Eighteen Performing Arts 2020 Projects
August 27, 2020
The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture – AFAC has announced the selection of eighteen projects from seven Arab countries for its 2020 Performing Arts grant program. Among these 18 grantees, 9 are female artists, and 12 are receiving support from AFAC for the first time. The open call for the Performing Arts Program was launched on February 1st and closed on May 1st, 2020, with 167 applications received. Eleven Arab countries were represented in the pool of applicants for this cycle, including Iraq, Mauritania and Sudan, with the highest percentage of applications received from Palestine, followed by Tunisia and Lebanon.
National Queer Theater: Building Community, Shining a Light, and Raising Hell
July 9, 2020
This moment has in many ways been incredibly challenging as producers, but as a citizen I could not be more engaged and riveted by the efforts emerging to resist state violence and prejudice both in the US and abroad. With the recent uprisings in response to George Floyd’s killing, we found ourselves again asking if our mission and voice are needed at this moment. The question then becomes: What do we do with that knowledge? How do we build a version of global solidarity that actively disrupts these forces? That’s something I’m hoping to bring into the conversations that are part of the festival.
The Talkback Podcast with Adam Mace discussing Criminal Queerness Festival
June 24, 2020
This week Adam is chatting with two incredible artists and activists! Adam Odsess-Rubin and Adam Ashraf Elsayigh from National Queer Theater are on the show chatting about their incredible journeys as well the phenomenal Criminal Queerness Festival which is happening right now (June 2020)!
Announcing New Cohort of Lab Fellows at the Laboratory for Global Performance & Politics!
February 10, 2020
The ten Fellows in the 2020-21 cohort were selected from an impressive pool of 190 applicants from more than 60 countries around the world, committed to addressing the most pressing issues of our time through the performing arts.
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Will Present Work-in-Process Presentation of the New Verbatim Play MEMORIAL
February 4, 2020
Conceived by Arianna Stucki, and co-written by Stucki and playwright Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, Memorial is a verbatim play that centers the experience of survivors of the mosque shootings that occurred on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Memorial is based on interviews Stucki conducted in Christchurch during a research trip June 2019, three months after the atrocious attack on the Muslim community. Using embodied rituals and practices, Memorial chronicles the impact of the shootings, and systems of violence, through the words and experiences of seven citizens and immigrants of Christchurch.
ReOrient 2019: National Convening of Middle East and North African Theatre Artists
November 12, 2019
This Fall, I had the honor of being a part of Reorient 2019 hosted by Golden Thread Productions. I spoke in a panel on "Artistic and Administrative Mentorship in the MENA Community" organized by my dear mentor, Catherine Coray and facilitated by Roberta Levitow. Also had the amazing of privilege of speaking alongside some of my own awe-inspiring mentors including Torange Yeghiazarian, Yussef El Guindi, and Evren Odcikin. See our panel below, which was livestreamed, courtesy of Howlround Theatre Commons.
Meet the 2019-20 Apprentice Team!
September 30, 2019
"Fall has always been a season of transitions. With leaves beginning to wither and sunrise arriving later than before, we’re stepping into a time of uncertainty, of change, and of goodbye to the past. Fall also marks the arrival of something new, a new journey, a new job perhaps. This fall, The Lark welcomed the arrival of a new cohort of apprentices. As the Communications Apprentice, I interviewed the rest of the team to help you, our community, get to know us a little better, and to reflect on our journey at The Lark and beyond!"
The Joust Theatre Company Announces Playwrights Selected For 2019 Writer's Round Table
July 1, 2019
The Joust Theatre Company is thrilled to announce the four playwrights selected for the 2019-2020 Writer’s Round Table. The Writer's Round Table is a developmental writers' group comprised of four carefully selected playwrights whose work challenges and/or reimagines systemic norms. These four playwrights will join us in a 9-month developmental process to exchange ideas and develop their plays which will culminate in each play receiving two public workshop performances, presented in repertory in the Spring and Fall of 2020.
Review: In "Drowning in Cairo," Those Who Tell Don’t Die, But Sometimes They Drown
June 13, 2019
In May 2001 fifty-two men, known as the Cairo 52, were arrested on the Queen Boat nightclub, a boat docked on the banks of the Nile that served as a club and was known to be gay-friendly. It was one of the only clubs in Cairo a man could enter unaccompanied by a woman, making it the default gay club in the city. The Cairo 52 were accused of “devil worship” and “habitual debauchery,” and during the drawn-out trial, Cairo newspapers published scathing stories about the men next to their pictures. Twenty-one of the men were sentenced to three years of prison despite international outcry from Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.
Criminal Queerness Festival Will Be Held For WorldPride 2019
April 9, 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 Queer Arabs Podcast, Episode 40: Interview with Adam Ashraf
November 30, 2018
It was so nice to get to talk with him more. Adam has been creating plays that give voice to the issues that queer Egyptians have faced. During this episode, we talked about the importance of representation of SWANA artists, about the reactions that different audiences have had to his play “Drowning in Cairo”, what elements Adam feels are vital to keep in mind when writing and presenting his plays, and much more!
Drowning in Cairo: An Interview with Egyptian Playwright Adam A. Elsayigh
November 1, 2018
“My narrative imagines these three characters who grew up together and were going on this boat and were very excited to be in this queer space for the first time, and how getting arrested on this boat impacts the rest of their lives,” said Elsayigh.
Drowning in Cairo in New Threads' Festival Press Release
June 5, 2018
Golden Thread’s popular staged reading series returns, introducing four vital new plays to the Bay Area. We invite you to laugh, cry, and think alongside these beautiful stories from and about the Middle East! Each play is teeming with unexpected humor, surprising characters, and provocative questions about the world we live in today...
Review Of Drowning in Cairo in The Gazelle
March 31, 2018
Absolute silence and darkness surrounds the audience. Three spotlights appear and there are three stands underneath them. Three men wearing black clothes walk up to the stands, place their folders on the stands and stand. A narrator starts reading the scene directions. The audience has now been transported to Cairo...