Draw the Circle

Written and performed by MASHUQ MUSHTAQ DEEN  |  Directed by CHAY YEW

In rep with The Real Americans

Written & performed by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen  

Directed by Chay Yew 
At the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Lab II

December 1-24, 2017


Gender transition can be a test for any household—but when Mashuq Mushtaq Deen comes out to his conservative Muslim family, traditional values and Western ideals collide in an hilarious and moving immigration journey unlike any other. Told entirely from the point of view of family and friends, yet performed by Deen himself, Draw the Circle is a moving story about survival, transition, and unconditional love. Part of the series "Transformational Journeys: Inspired Singular Explorations."

"Fresh...Striking...Big Hearted"-Nelson Pressley, The Washington Post

"Essential Viewing" - Broadway World

"A Masterful Act of Writing and Performance that Transforms Us" -DCMTA

Generously underwritten by Deborah Carliner & Robert Remes, with additional support from Michael Singer.

Community Sponsor:

Box Office
Atlas Performing Arts Center

1333 H Street NE

Washington, DC 20002

Box Office


202-399-7993 ext 2

Box Office Hours

M-Sat: 10:30am-5:30pm

Sun: 10:30am-1:30pm

Box office does NOT take calls two hours prior to a show's curtain, but will return all voice messages left during that time.

Will Call opens one hour prior to curtain.

Patrons who arrive late will be seated at the discretion of management.

Opening Nights: Sunday and Monday, December 3 & 4 at 7:30PM


Fri December 1 at 8 PM

Sat December 2 at 8 PM

Sun December 3 at 3 PM Post show discussion

Sun December 3 at 7:30 PM | Opening night

Mon December 4 at 7:30 PM Opening night

Thurs December 7 at 8 PM Post show discussion

Fri December 8 at 8 PM

Sat December 9 at 3 PM Open captions, Peace Café

Sun December 10 at 7:30 PM Open captions


Tues December 12 at 8 PM Post show discussion

Wed December 13 at 8 PM Post show discussion

Thurs December 14 at 11 AM Cast talkback

Sat December 16 at 8 PM | Post show discussion

Sun December 17 at 3 PM Post show discussion

Thurs December 21 at 8 PM | Post show discussion

Sat December 23 at 3 PM Post show discussion

Sat December 23 at 8 PM 

Sun December 24 at 3 PM

For more information on post show discussions, click here


"Trans playwrights are still emerging, which puts Deen’s show in the vanguard here (and let’s credit Mosaic Theater for boldly expanding its repertoire all the time). The story’s framework is simple yet striking, and more than a novelty: it’s an apt, big-hearted way to puzzle together many pieces of Deen’s journey. “Draw the Circle” does not sugarcoat his despair or incidents of violence, yet it rather amazingly reaches back to retrieve people who easily could have been cut out for life." - Nelson Pressley, The Washington Post 


"Deen's portrayal of various individuals is remarkable, not only because of his careful craft, but also because of his great empathy. His play is more powerful than a first-person account. Rather than focusing on reaching members of a certain group, he makes sure to include a range of characters participating in a common story with universal emotions. The phrase "draw the circle" is itself meant to evoke inclusivity." - Broadway World


"In order to follow his story, we necessarily become conscious and empathic witnesses, seeking to understand him, not being told how to, completing his story of seeking to be seen. The way as writer/performer Deen lets us know him through his transformation only through everyone else’s point of view is a masterful act of writing and performance that transforms us."


"Deen writes with clarity and precision about the topic. His characters are all realistic and have clear intentions and feelings. The journey that they all go on with Deen is compelling and full of fear and love...The piece is significant and timely." -Theater Guide 


Meet the Artists

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen (Performer and Playwright)


Deen is an award-winning, queer theater artist and a resident playwright at New Dramatists (class of 2022). Full-length plays: The Shaking Earth, Draw the Circle, Tank & Horse, and Shut Up! Deen's plays have been produced and/or developed by New Dramatists, The Public Theater, NYTW, InterAct Theatre, Page73, Ma-Yi, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Georgetown University, BEAT Festival, PACE University, Hampshire College, Averett University, Dixon Place, Passage Theatre, Queens Theatre in the Park, Tofte Lake Center, Berkshire Fringe. Awards and Grants: Helene Wurlitzer's Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation Award, MacDowell Colony's Arch an Bruce Brown Fellow (2015-16), New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow; Fellowships: MacDowell Colony Fellow (2015), Bogliasco Foundation Fellow (2016), Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Fellow (2016), New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow; Writing Groups: Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group (2009), Page73 Interstate writing group (2014); Other: Jerome New York Fellowship finalist, O'Neill Conference semifinalist, Weissberger Award nomination, Playwrights Center Core Writers Finalist, James Baldwin Award, Dennis Johnston Playwriting Prize honorable mention, Literary Committee of Queens Theatre (2014-15). Teaching Artist:Lower Manhattan Cultural Council SPARC Fellow, Community Voices Workshop with Second Generation Theatre, Mind the Gap (NYTW), and various colleges/universities while touring with Draw the Circle. Member: NYTW Usual Suspect, Ma-Yi Writers Lab, Public Theater Alumni Writers Group, Dramatists Guild. He earned his MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School/New School for Drama. He is represented by the Gurman Agency LLC.


In his spare time, Deen is also an activist and a man of many hobbies, including bread baker, monster-maker, and student of the classical guitar. mashuqdeen.wix.com/playwright

Chay Yew (Director)


His New York production credits include The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Playwrights Realm, New York Theatre Workshop, National Asian American Theatre Company, and Ma-Yi Theatre Company. Regionally, he has directed at Victory Gardens, Goodman Theater, Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Kennedy Center; Mark Taper Forum, American Conservatory Theater, Huntington Theatre Company, Long Wharf Theatre, Denver Center Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Empty Space Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Boston Court, East West Players amongst others. His opera credits include world premieres of Osvaldo Golijov and David Henry Hwang’s Ainadamar (co-production with the Tanglewood Music Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic); and Rob Zuidam’s Rage of d’Amours (Tanglewood Music Center). A recipient of the Obie Award and DramaLogue Award for Direction, he is also the Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.


Dear Friend,

I stumbled upon the title for this piece not far from here, in Arlington, Virginia. I was visiting the Arlington Unitarians, as I used to do sometimes in those days. (I’m not a Unitarian.) They were the first church I had ever entered where every member wore a rainbow sticker on their name tag. I’m 42 years old. I grew up in a time when no one was out of the closet in high school and gay-straight alliances had never been heard of. I still find it hard to take this kind of acceptance for granted. (Then again, the state of the world makes it hard to take anything for granted anymore.)


This one Sunday, the UU church had a poem in their program, and it’s been at the beginning

of my script ever since. It’s by Edwin Markham, and it goes like this:

“He drew a circle that shut me out—

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him in!”


The national discourse seems so much more vitriolic since the 2016 election, and so much of it happens online instead of face-to-face. These spaces engage our heads, but not always our hearts...


If I’ve succeeded in this play – and only you can be the judge of that – then I ask of you this one thing: Draw your own circle. Make it big, big enough for stragglers like me to find a soft place to land when life gets really hard; when our rights are being taken away, when we’re under attack, when hates crimes are up, maybe you could be a smile or a gentle word. If you have the fortitude, draw your circle even bigger, and include those who are lost, who are scared – scared of people like me – those who want to understand and don’t know how to begin. And if you can, draw the circle even bigger, big enough for the vastness of your own heart. We are, all of us, strong and fallible and lost at times and vulnerable and isn’t that what makes us so desperately human?

Cannot there be room for our humanness, for our imperfections, yours and mine? Do we not both hurt and love and struggle and get tired and yet keep trying?


These characters that you have met tonight are dear to me. I hope I have done them justice by getting out of the way and letting you spend some time with them. I hope you might love them a little bit by the time you leave.

With my whole heart and none of my head, I welcome you to my circle.

Warmest regards,

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen

PS—My mother would disapprove of this note. She would say I have been too bold. She

might be right. If I have overstepped, I humbly apologize.

From the Artist Advocacy Specialist

Dane Figueroa Edidi

Agency, Artistry, And Advocacy:

On Questioning What Stories We Are Allowed To Tell

They say with a greater visibility of trans people, comes a greater investment in the lives of trans creatives, but that hasn’t been the case. When I think of this past year in DC, only four theaters have produced shows that featured trans and gender nonconforming characters. Only two of those plays produced have been written by TGNC playwrights, only one was written by a trans person of color.

Said play (which was my own) called Klytemnestra: An Epic Slam Poem (produced by Theater Alliance), was the only play, written by a trans playwright whose main focus was not transness, and whose trans character’s story was not focused on transition.

There is a community of amazing trans playwrights, but it seems there is a lack of investment in trans playwright’s works, just as it also seems there is a lack of investment in stories with trans characters that go beyond focusing on making cis audience members comfortable. 

What happens when we allow trans playwrights to tell stories where a character just happens to be trans and whose transness isn’t the sole basis of their being or topic in their interactions with others?

It is not enough to simply experience trans people, playwrights, and their characters as a heartfelt voyeur. For what good is theater when it isn’t challenging us all to be better humans when we leave its hallowed halls? What good is crying about a trans character’s lot in life when trans people are actively being targeted, oppressed, and killed? Our compassion and investment must go beyond the ritual of visibility, commodification, and tokenization. 

What happens when we invest in the trans community beyond seat filler, magical friend, entertainment’s marginalized victim and trauma doll or in nuanced stories and characters written by trans people?

Theater has the ability to express and expose in unapologetic ways. It has the ability to gift communities with safe space and audiences with permission to question and challenge oppression.

I invite us as a theater community to do more. D.C. has already proven with its Women’s Voices Theater Festival that it is willing to acknowledge when it has failed a certain demographic of creative artists and make efforts to rectify that.

I am thrilled to have my friend Mashuq Mushtaq Deen’s play Draw the Circle come to D.C. as another play written by a trans playwright of color.

I push theaters to actively seek out the works of trans playwrights, not simply to fill a diversity and inclusive quota or even to get a pat on the back, but because they exist, we exist. I invite theaters to invest in the lives of trans creatives, not only the commodification of our stories. I challenge theaters to allow Trans playwrights to have agency over the types of stories they wish to tell. I say to theaters, let us not simply shed light, but pour into the lives of the people whose stories we tell. 

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Atlas Performing Arts Center

1333 H Street NE

Washington, DC 20002


202-399-7993 ext 2


Monday-Friday, 11 AM to 2 PM; 3 PM to 6 PM

In person: 2 hours prior to show on show days

Box office does NOT take calls two hours prior to a show's curtain, but will return all voice messages left during that time.

Will Call opens one hour prior to curtain.

Patrons who arrive late will be seated at the discretion of management.