Originally from the rural Northeast, and now a resident of NYC for for half his life, Mushuq Mustaq Deen (Nominee) is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, and essayist, and is best known for his play, Draw The Circle, winner of the Lambda Literary Award. He is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a CORE writer at the Playwrights Center. His plays also include The Shaking Earth, The Betterment Society, Flood, and The Empty Place. His awards and grants include the Lambda Literary Award for Drama, second place for both India’s Sulthan Padamsee Playwriting Prize and the Woodward International Playwriting Prize, the James Baldwin Award, a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, a TCG Global Travel research grant, Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation grant, Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation grant, and a Bronx Council for the Arts Concept grant. His work has been produced by InterAct, PlayMakers Rep, Mosaic, and Rattlestick, and has been developed by The Public Theater, NYTW, Kansas City Rep, Keen Co, Dixon Place, Ma-Yi, Target Margin, La Jolla Playhouse, New Harmony, Page73, Passage Theatre, and Queens Theatre in the Park, among others. His plays and narrative essays have been published by Dramatists Play Service, Methuen Books (UK), Table Work Press, Journal of Asian American Studies, Asian American Writers Workshop, MacDowell, and more. He has been commissioned by NYU, Keen Company, and Noor Theatre. He received his MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School/New School for Drama. He is the one of the founding members of the Public Theater’s Alumni Writers Group, and is a playwright board member on the New Dramatists Board of Directors. He is also a spouse of 22 years, an avid cook, and a student of the guitar.
I have not yet had the honor of serving on the Dramatists Guild Council, but I currently sit on both New Dramatists’ Writers Executive Committee and on the Board of Directors (my second three-year term). Within these contexts, I have raised difficult questions about racial and gender equity, and about playwright equity, and have sometimes paid a stiff price for it. But I believe that one “leads” not by instituting their own ideas, but by making sure that all voices are represented and are given space and time; that difficult conversations about organizational growth remain nuanced and thoughtful, retain the texture of both honesty and kindness, while still being rigorous, that we challenge ourselves constantly.
Leadership, to me, means service to those around me.
I come from a background in community organizing where I held leadership positions in the Asian American LGBTQ community. Though it seems like a lifetime ago now, those early days of advocacy taught me a lot. As a transgender South Asian man, I am acutely aware of the limitations of binary thinking, and I try my best to bring a complicated awareness to the issues at hand. Empathy, compassion, and nuance are my core values, and I do my best to live them in my work, in how I make my work, and in how I serve the field of the arts that makes our work possible. I am honored to be nominated to run for the Dramatists Guild Council. I have long benefited from the Guild’s legal advice, resources, and from the Guild’s protection of my artistic integrity. I have participated in The Dramatists Guild Presents: TALKBACK conversations with Christine Toy Johnson. Something I love about the Guild is that it is playwrights and lyricists advocating for each other. For a moment, we collectively reject the Myth of Scarcity that tells us we should be in competition with each other, and instead we hold each other up.
What we do is incredibly hard — to create something out of nothing, to weave thin air into a story, into a movement, into something, as Tennessee Williams said, that will bring people home — we bring people home. The Guild is one of our homes, and I would be honored to bring my experience to bear in protecting and advocating for our community.