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Marble Surface


Writer. Dramaturg. New Play Development.

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Adam Ashraf Elsayigh was born in Cairo, Egypt to parents who were reluctantly doctors. When soon thereafter, Adam’s parents relocated the family to Dubai, Adam grew up in a religious Muslim household with American cable television, going to a British school in a Gulf state where over 90% of the population were migrant workers. This upbringing at the cross-section of cultures is at the core of the artist Adam is.

Today, Adam is a a writer, theatermaker, and dramaturg who writes and develops plays that interrogate the intersections of queerness, immigration, and colonialism. Adam’s plays (including Drowning in Cairo, Revelation, Memorial, and Jamestown/ Williamsburg) have been developed and seen at New York Theater Workshop, The Lark, The Tisch School of the Arts, The LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, and Golden Thread Productions. Adam is a fellow at Georgetown University's Laboratory for Global Performance and an Alliance/Kendeda Award Finalist. He holds a BA in Theater with an emphasis in Playwriting and Dramaturgy from NYU Abu Dhabi and is an MFA Candidate in Playwriting at Brooklyn College. Learn more about what Adam is up to at


For excerpts, scripts, summaries and production histories of my plays, please visit my Profile on National Play Exchange (NPX)




June 2022:

So excited to share that my essay on censorship and intercultural performance in the Cairo Experimental Theater Festival was featured among other brilliant artists in HowlRound Theatre Commons's first anthology! #howlroundanthology

Preorder it here:

Critical Writing


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. 



World Premiere of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and More Set For Alliance Theatre's 2022/23 Season

April 13, 2022

The Alliance is pleased to announce the finalists of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. These plays will receive developmental workshops and staged readings as part of the Alliance/Kendeda Week celebrating news works in 2023. The finalists of the 2022/23 season are:

  • Ruth and Lydia, by Jamie Rubenstein, Hunter College

  • Ridgway, by Charlie O'Leary, University of Iowa

  • Memorial, by Adam Ashraf El-Sayigh and Arianna Gayle Stucki, Brooklyn College

  • How to Bruise Gracefully, by Brittany Fisher, The Juilliard School


SF CHRONICLE: Review: Golden Thread’s ‘Drowning in Cairo’ overstuffs sensitive depiction of gay love triangle

April 12, 2022

There’s something about Moody. When he’s a teenager, it’s obvious: He’s the ringleader and the daredevil, the one blithely unfazed by sensible qualms, the one who knows how to dance and what CD to play from his boom box (Britney Spears, obviously). He knows what to order in gay bars, and he pretends, convincingly enough, to know how to clink beverages.

But as he ages into his 20s and 30s in “Drowning in Cairo,” Moody (Amin El Gamal) still has an unbreakable hold over Khalid (Wiley Naman Strasser) and Taha (Martin Yousif Zebari) — even when Moody is broken himself.


SF EXAMINER: ‘Drowning in Cairo’ about gay rights in Egypt and universality of repression.

April 6, 2022

Looking back on the development process, Elsayigh, on the phone from NYU in Manhattan — where a newer play of his, Memorial, is about to open at Tisch School for the Arts — he says that Drowning in Cairo has changed enormously over the years... [He knew] it would about being gay in Egypt with the proviso that “I cannot speak to all of queer life in Egypt.”


Nor, he emphasizes, can he claim to speak for Arabs or Muslims. “I do not represent ‘how hard it is for gays over there,’” he writes in a strongly worded note in Golden Thread’s program. “This is a single story by a single writer. 


BAY AREA REPORTER: 'Drowning in Cairo' — playwright Adam Ashraf Elsayigh's world premiere

April 5, 2022

Adam Ashraf Elsayigh is having a moment. It's an exciting time for him. It's also a bit unsettling.

The Egyptian-born, New York-based writer will arrive in San Francisco for the opening of Golden Thread Productions' world premiere production of his play, Drowning In Cairo, which is about ... Well, here's where it gets complicated.


Curating New Worlds

April 1, 2022

When I came into American theater as an immigrant and a playwright, I had this grandiose artistic vision of wanting people who look like, sound like, or share some identities with me to be represented on stage. That vision, however, didn’t coalesce with the productions of institutional theaters — traditionally, the dramaturgs at such establishments are not people who look like me or share my experiences. That made me realize that to carry out my vision I couldn’t just be a playwright, but needed to be a curator and an artistic producer as well.


That same impulse informs why I want to produce something like the Ground Floor series. It informs why I’m interested in curating and being a part of the spaces that I get to be in in this role.


April theater: three world premieres, sketch comedy and the Edwardian Ball

March 21, 2022

Assaf has been, among other things, an investigative journalist. She told me last year, “My own curiosity and interest in testimonies and personal stories makes me today a big advocate of documentary theater.” So it’s no surprise that she’s opening the new season with the world premiere of Adam Ashraf Elsayigh’s “Drowning in Cairo,” which she is directing. It’s based on an actual event in Egypt in 2001, in which three young men were arrested in a gay nightclub. The drama follows the aftermath of that fateful night, tracking the ways in which the men’s lives were forever affected.


In spring 2022, Bay Area theater returns — for real this time

March 16, 2022

“I remember googling ‘Gay Arab novel’ as a preteen and finding no literature about queer people from where I grew up,” playwright Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, who was born in Cairo and grew up in Dubai, said in a statement.

He envisions this show, now in a Golden Thread Productions world premiere, as a small corrective. It’s inspired by the real-life 2001 incident of the so-called Cairo 52, referring to the men arrested on a gay nightclub on a boat docked in the Nile.

Drowning in Cairo is also the first Golden Thread show directed by new leader Sahar Assaf.


Asolo Rep Hires New Literary Manager and Dramaturg

January 26, 2022

An Egyptian playwright and theater maker has joined Asolo Repertory Theatre as the new Literary Manager and Dramaturg.

As dramaturg, the theater said Elsayigh will work on new play development, provide dramaturgical research for directors, actors and designers on shows in production, create content for theater programs, work with literary agents and help to cultivate playwrights and acquire and evaluate new scripts.


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.

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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...




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When People's Stories are Honored

Nov 3, 2021

Mahia te Aroha is working with Arianna and Adam, who are based in NYC, in a spirit of cooperation. We keep in close touch and speak for the play here in New Zealand. At this end we are exploring the possibilities of staging the play here. Arianna’s and Adam’s hope had been for a “world premiere” to be in Christchurch.


COVID put pause to that.  We are also very aware this production in its city of origin needs to be at the right time for the community in their healing process.  In the meantime Adam and Arianna in the US are looking at other places in the world where these Christchurch stories could be taken. 


Victims' Christchurch terror attack stories told on New York stage

November 2, 2021

A play using the verbatim stories of five people affected by the Christchurch terror attack has debuted on a New York theatre stage. Written based on interviews held three months after the March 15, 2019 shootings, Memorial tells the story of peace and compassion in the face of injustice, violence, and loss – “the true legacy of March 15th”, its co-writer says.


Juilliard School student Arianna Gayle Stucki and co-writer Adam Ashraf Elsayigh created the play in collaboration with community member Abdul Jabbar, and the families of victims Husna Ahmed, 44, and Hussein Al-Umari, 35.


Golden Thread Production to present World Premiere of Drowning in Cairo

October 7, 2021

We’re delighted to bring you the World Premiere of Adam Ashraf Elsayigh’s Drowning in Cairo, originally presented and partially developed as part of Golden Thread’s New Threads Reading Series in 2018. Adam Ashraf Elsayigh’s debut production is a loving portrait of three young men struggling to rebuild their lives after their arrest and public humiliation on the Queen Boat, a gay nightclub docked on the Nile.

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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.


Observing Between Worlds: A Conversation with Adam Elsayigh

August 13, 2021

"We sat down with New York based Egyptian playwright, dramaturg, and producer Adam Ashraf Elsayigh to discuss his migration story and to learn about his art. Adam was born in Cairo and moved to Dubai with his parents."

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

June 2021

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!

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