Meet the Labbies: MASHUQ DEEN
Founded in 2004, the Ma-Yi Writers Lab is the largest resident company of Asian-American playwrights ever assembled. We reached out to a few of the members to learn more about the artists that are shaping the landscape of theatre for Asians.
Meet Mashuq Deen.
Mashuq is a Brooklyn-based theater artist who is currently on the new Literary Committee at Queens Theatre in the Park. He is an activist for the South Asian LGBTQ community, promotes transgender inclusion and advocacy, and has a myriad of hobbies ranging from bread baking to woodworking.
Ma-Yi Theater Company: Who are you?
Mashuq Deen: I am a person who loves my partner and tries to make a home for my friends. I think WHO YOU ARE, in the end, is more important than WHAT YOU DO. I like to cook and I like having an audience for my cooking. I have in the past made stuffed monsters and adopted them out to humans in need. I can talk about levain (aka starter) (aka bread yeast) for a long time. I’m a certified yoga teacher. I often feel more in the closet about my beliefs than about my queerness, especially here in the city. I have a problem with the word “ambition” but not with the word “determined.” I like spending time with my in-laws. I play Canasta with my parents whenever I can. If I died today, the one thing I’d regret is not having a dog.
MYTC: What kind of stories do you like to tell?
MD: Political stories. Stories about injustice. Stories that make something inside you crack open and cry, maybe. Stories about people who love each other in painful ways. Stories about dark things and stories about hope. (I wouldn’t use the words “like to tell” so much as “have to tell.”)
MYTC: What play(s) are you currently working on?
MD: I’m finishing up edits on THE SHAKING EARTH, a play about the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres in India, and the effects on survivors here in the States. I’m putting together a grassroots, national tour of DRAW THE CIRCLE, a play about a conservative Muslim family dealing with their transgender child. I’m in the early stages of a play about the ways we imprison and dehumanize people suffering from mental illnesses. I think I’m going to try writing a musical this year, which I’ve never done before.
MYTC: Is there a particular piece of theatre or art that strikes your fancy right now and why?
MD: The last thing I absolutely loved was THE EVENTS, which played at NYTW. It challenged us to confront our own sense of good and evil, instead of playing against an “other” which is too common and too simplistic. It was non-linear. It invited the audience in, at the end, to be part of a coming together of community, to sing, and it moved me and gave me hope while tackling the subject of a mass shooting.
MYTC: If you could meet one fictional character, who would it be and why?
MD: Dumbledore. Because he’s kind and wise.
MYTC: How would you describe your style of writing and/or aesthetic?
MD: I wouldn’t. I’d leave that to other people. Hopefully it’s changing and growing.
MYTC: What makes you angry?
MD: Meanness? Littering? … It takes a lot to get me angry.
MYTC: What makes you happy?
MD: Sitting next to my partner (Elizabeth) while eating something yummy (like dark chocolate) and having a puppy (a chocolate labrador would be perfect) sit in my lap and lick my hand.
MYTC: What is your favorite midnight snack?
MYTC: Why do you write plays?
MD: To take something painful in the world and to transform it into something healing, maybe even something of beauty.
MYTC: How did you find out about the Writers Lab?
MD: I don’t know, I just had heard about it for years before I finally joined.
MYTC: Are there any upcoming readings, workshops, and/or productions of your work coming up? Tell us when and where!
MD: December 21: there will be a reading of THE SHAKING EARTH at NYTW.
MYTC: Do you have a website?
Mashuq Deen is a Brooklyn-based theater artist. Fellowships and writing groups: Ma-Yi Writers Lab, New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow (2013-14) , P73 Interstate writing group member (2014-15), NYFA Fellowship recipient (2013), Public Theater Emerging Writers Group (2009) and AWG (ongoing), affiliate artist with the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics (2012-13), LMCC SPARC Fellow (2013), and artist-in-residence at the Tofte Lake Center emerging artist retreat (2012). He is currently a member of the new Literary Committee at Queens Theatre in the Park. Deen is also an activist for the South Asian LGBTQ community, and does a lot of work for transgender inclusion and advocacy both in NYC and in collaboration with national and international organizations. He teaches writing workshops and trains community support group facilitators. He has a number of hobbies, which include baking bread, birthing stuffed monsters, and woodworking.