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. Adam is the Co-founder of The Criminal Queerness Festival in partnership with National Queer Theater. He is a fellow at Georgetown University's Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics and a co-host of The Queer Arab Podcast. Adam's work has been seen at IRT Theater, Dixon Place, Golden Thread Productions, and The NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center. Adam 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)
Jamestown/Williamsburg tells the story of the voyages and traumas of two immigrant women, Diyala and Agnes. The former came to Virginia on a student visa in 2019, and the latter was a mail-order bride to Jamestown in 1619, with an elaborate plan to rule the new world. Diyala is in a green card marriage with her husband Ibrahim, seeking a path to American citizenship. Agnes is married to the Lord of the 1619 Virginia Company, who happens to be sleeping with a Native American man.
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.
SEASONAL UPDATES AND UPCOMING EVENTS
I have found myself wanting to take a step away from the theater to bear witness and reflect on the current moment. As our society and field discover their new normal, I am taking a brief step back from theater-making to instead invest my resources in providing direct support and being with communities most affected by this, particularly queer and immigrant communities.
We closed the second iteration of the Criminal Queerness Festival with National Queer Theater late this June. Working with, learning from, and amplifying queer stories from across the world in contexts where queerness is criminalized. Transitioning to the virtual space has also been incredibly helpful as we have been able to extend our programming accompanying the plays and our community outreach to queer communities across the globe rather than only in New York.
This summer, I am developing a project for TV titled The Kufiya which tells the story of Mo and Sami, two queer men who meet and through a twist of events fall in love on the night of the Maspero Massacre during the Egyptian Revolution. In terms of my pedagogical and curatorial practices, I am designing and leading a leadership and development program for new refugees titles youth in collaboration with USCRI Vermont. The program is running from June to August and, through a variety of workshops, is empowering youth with skills such as public speaking, debate, and storytelling. I'm also in the process of founding and developing a new fellowship for early-career Arab theater-makers based in the MENA region in collaboration with The Georgetown Laboratory for Performance and Politics and with my dear friend and colleague Karishma Bhagani. More details on this exciting initiative will be announced 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.
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...