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National Queer Theatre seeks submissions for Criminal Queerness Festival

The National Queer Theater (NQT) has announced a call for play submissions for the 5th annual Criminal Queerness Festival, ​​an annual international theater festival created in partnership with NYC Pride.

Submissions are now open for what is the 5th annual Criminal Queerness Festival, ​​an annual international theater festival created in partnership with NYC Pride. The Criminal Queerness Festival seeks to uplift and amplify LGBTQ playwrights and artists from countries that censor or criminalize queer communities through the creation of exciting theatrical productions. This year’s edition of the Criminal Queerness Festival will focus on LGBTQ artists from Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

Up to three plays will be selected and given performances as staged readings or full productions in New York City. The plays will be performed in a festival format with directors and actors from National Queer Theater. The winning playwrights will be awarded a stipend of $1,500 USD each. 

The Criminal Queerness Festival welcomes submissions that meet the following criteria:

  • Plays by artists from countries that censor or discriminate against LGBTQ communities.
  • Plays that address themes of criminalization, homophobia, or transphobia outside the United States.
  • Plays that have not been previously produced in the United States.
  • Proposals for concerts, dance theater, or other storytelling formats are also welcome.

Scripts or proposals must be submitted by 11:00 PM EST (23:00) on October 27, 2022, at

Founded in 2018 by Adam Odsess-Rubin, Founding Artistic Director of NQT, and Egyptian playwright Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, the Criminal Queerness Festival develops and produces new plays by international LGBTQ+ playwrights from countries that criminalize or censor LGBTQ+ communities. The initiative 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 worldwide, being LGBTQ+ is criminalized, and in 12 countries, queer and trans individuals could be given the death penalty based on their sexuality. 

Recently, Russia, a country that has recently been cited for the persecution of its LGBTQ community, invaded Ukraine. In December 2014, Human Rights Watch published a report on the persecution of the LGBT community in Russia. According to activists, after the introduction of the law in 2013, “there has been an increase in the number of attacks on LGBT people throughout Russia, both by individuals and by organized homophobic groups. In addition, attacks on LGBT rights defenders have increased.” Activists reported campaigns of harassment and intimidation of LGBT teachers, human rights defenders, and, most importantly, the total inaction of law enforcement agencies in response to acts of violence.

Additionally, in their home country, LGBTQ Ukrainians can fight and die in the war against Russia, but Ukraine does not allow for same-sex marriage, which means LGBTQ people don’t have the right to see their loved ones in the hospital or to take care of personal affairs for their partners while they are away fighting the war. According to KharkivPride, LGBTQ Ukrainians are also being prevented from making decisions about an injured partner’s health; caring for the children of a partner who is away fighting, or injured or killed in battle, and they don’t have the right to make funeral arrangements for a partner killed in action.

The current conflict is causing Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. More than 2 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine, seeking safe harbor since the war began. For members of Ukraine’s LGBTQ community fleeing the war, the homophobic environment in Poland can present new challenges. Although being queer is legal in Poland, the nation has been consistently ranked as one of the most homophobic countries in the European Union. More than 100 municipalities, a third of the country, have adopted so-called “LGBT-free zones” that declare they are free from aspects of LGBTQ “ideology.”

Aleksandr ‘Sasha’ Krapivkin, a queer activist who originally immigrated from Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Chicago, is working alongside Odsess-Rubin as a co-curator to produce this year’s Criminal Queerness Festival. Sasha holds a B.F.A. in acting from Western Michigan University and an M.F.A. in acting from Florida State University/Asolo Repertory Theatre. Sasha is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association (AEA). Now based in New York City, New York, Sasha is an actor, singer and creator.

“At a time when the world could not feel more chaotic and full of hate, it will be art that heals it. It’s our duty to give space to artists who risk it all to accomplish that healing,” said Sasha. “Amplified voices of these artists by Criminal Queerness Festival will inevitably help to speed along and embolden the fight for equality for all.”

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

Queer Forty Staff

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