For queer-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) identifying individuals, the endless and unique intersections of one’s identities can make it difficult to find yourself authentically represented in the arts. Working to carve out space for marginalized queer artists, The National Queer Theatre (NQT) elevates those who have been historically, and continue to be, underrepresented in the theater field. The NQT houses a unique initiative known as the Criminal Queerness Initiative (CQI), which focuses on highlighting the narratives of queer identifying international and immigrant playwrights—specifically, the censorship or criminalization they may face within their countries. The efforts of the artists are then celebrated in a culminating event, the Criminal Queerness Festival (CQF).

In addition, they host the Criminal Queerness Lab: a (virtual) residency that seeks to elevate playwrights on an international scale by providing rigorous support in the writing and production of new work. I had the pleasure of speaking with Adam Odsess-Rubin, founder of the National Queer Theatre and the Criminal Queerness Initiative, about the initiative’s origins and the importance of conversation surrounding the varying degrees of censorship queer-identifying individuals encounter on an international scale.

When recounting what led him to create NQT, Adam briefly reminisced over what his experience with theater as a young artist was like. “I had to carve out a space for myself when I was younger,” he said, and described how overly apparent it was that American theater, since its origin, has catered to a particular audience—older, upper-class, white-identifying individuals. In creating NQT, Adam says it was important for him to center those who’ve not been authentically represented on the stage. He called attention to specific groups that are in constant proximity to him as a queer person, specifically the need for more trans women and queer individuals living with HIV/AIDS to have their voices seen and heard on the stage.

Read the full article about art spaces for queer BIPOC by Cedeem Gumbs at Americans for the Arts.