Ayad Akhtar

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Ayad Akhtar
Ayad akhtar 2012.jpg
Born (1970-10-28) October 28, 1970 (age 48)
EducationBrown University (BA)
Columbia University (MFA)
OccupationActor, writer
Years active2002–present

Ayad Akhtar (born October 28, 1970) is an American playwright, novelist, screenwriter and actor of Pakistani heritage who is best known for his play, Disgraced. The play received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama,[1] was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play,[2] and was named the most produced play in America for the 2015–16 Season.[3] Akhtar's work covers various themes including the human condition, love, responsibility, relationships, the American-Muslim experience, economics, immigration, identity, and aspects of culture.[vague]

Early life and career[edit]

Akhtar was born in Staten Island, New York City and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Akhtar's interest in writing was initially sparked in high school, when a teacher introduced him to European Modernism.[4] Akhtar graduated from Brookfield Central High School in 1988 and later attended Brown University where he majored in theater and began acting in student plays. After graduation he moved to Italy and studied acting with Jerzy Grotowski for a year, eventually becoming his assistant.[5] Upon returning to the United States, Akhtar taught acting classes with Andre Gregory and earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in film directing from Columbia University School of the Arts.[6]

While at Columbia he and classmates Tom Glynn and Joseph Castelo formed the idea for The War Within, a 2005 film about an ordinary man radicalized into becoming a terrorist.[5] Akhtar starred in the film playing Hassan, the would-be terrorist.[7] In 2011 he played Neel Kashkari in the HBO film Too Big to Fail.[8]

Akhtar published his first novel, American Dervish in 2012, a coming-of-age story about a Pakistani-American boy, Hayat, growing up in Milwaukee. The book was met with critical acclaim, described by the New York Times as "self-assured and effortlessly told."[9][10] American Dervish marks the first in a seven-work cycle on the Muslim-American experience that will include one film, three novels and three plays, of which one novel (American Dervish) and all three plays (Disgraced, The Who & The What, The Invisible Hand) have been completed.

In 2012, Akhtar returned to the theatre to write his first play, Disgraced. The play premiered at The American Theater Company in Chicago[11][12] before serving as the inaugural production of the new LCT3/Lincoln Center in New York. The play went on to win the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama[1] and received a London premiere at the Bush Theatre in London.[13] A new production of the play opened on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre on October 23, 2014.[14] The Broadway production was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play in 2015.[2]

Akhtar had two subsequent plays produced, The Who & The What, which premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in February 2012[15] and The Invisible Hand at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in March, 2012.[16] The Who & The What received its New York premiere in May, 2014 at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater[17] followed by the New York premiere of The Invisible Hand at New York Theatre Workshop in December, 2014[18] These successes led American Theatre magazine to name Akhtar the most produced playwright of the 2015–16 season, with 18 productions of Disgraced nationwide and 21 productions total.[3][19]

Akhtar's new play is Junk: The Golden Age of Debt. Set in the eighties, it puts a corporate takeover onstage. The play received its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in August 2016.[20] Junk premiered on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, produced by the Lincoln Center Theater, on October 5, 2017 in previews. Directed by Doug Hughes, the sets are by John Lee Beatty, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Ben Stanton, original music and sound by Mark Bennett and projections by 59 Productions.[21] The cast features Steven Pasquale (as Robert Merkin), Matthew Saldivar and Phillip James Brannon.[22]

Akhtar is working on a stage version of his novel American Dervish. The play will debut at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.[23]

List of works[edit]


  • 2016 Junk: The Golden Age of Debt. ISBN 978-0-316-55072-7[24]
  • 2015 The Invisible Hand. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-32453-3[25]
  • 2014 The Who & The What. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-32449-6[26]
  • 2013 Disgraced. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-32446-5[27]


Film and television[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
2002 "Life Document 2: Identity" Ahmad Directed, wrote script and served as editor
2005 The War Within Hassan Co-wrote script
2006 2006 Independent Spirit Awards Himself Documentary
"Long After" Naseer Short
2008 "FCU: Fact Checkers Unit" Short
2011 Too Big to Fail Neel Kashkari TV film


  • 2017 Steinberg Playwright Award[29]


The Invisible Hand[edit]


American Dervish[edit]

  • Named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year[40]
  • Named a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year in Toronto[41]
  • Named a Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year[42]
  • Named an O, the Oprah Magazine Book of the Year[43]

The War Within[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners".
  2. ^ a b c Staff, Variety (2015-04-28). "Tony Nominations 2015: Full List". Variety. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  3. ^ a b "The Top 10 Most-Produced Plays of the 2015--16 Season". AMERICAN THEATRE. 2015-09-16. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  4. ^ Feldberg, Robert. "Ayad Akhtar expects audience discomfort with his play 'Disgraced'". NorthJersey.com. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  5. ^ a b Wagner, Annie (October 19, 2005). "Annie Wagner Talks to Ayad Akhtar and Tom Glynn". The Stranger. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  6. ^ ”An Interview with Ayad Akhtar; A Conversation Between Playwright Ayad Akhtar and Anita Montgomery” ACT Webpage
  7. ^ Pais, Arthur J. (October 6, 2005). "What goes on in a terrorist's mind". Rediff. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  8. ^ Dudek, Duane (May 19, 2011). "Akhtar finds new opportunities in fiction, HBO". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  9. ^ "'American Dervish' — By Ayad Akhtar — Review - NYTimes.com". 2012-01-12. Archived from the original on January 12, 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  10. ^ Alter, Alexandra. "'Dervish' Whirls Into Publishing World". WSJ. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  11. ^ "Review: 'Disgraced' at American Theater Company". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  12. ^ Jones, Chris (Jan 21, 2012). "Tolerance is no easy out in riveting 'Disgraced'". Chicago Tribune.
  13. ^ "Disgraced". www.bushtheatre.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  14. ^ "Disgraced @ Lyceum Theatre | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  15. ^ "Production History". www.lajollaplayhouse.org. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  16. ^ "The Invisible Hand: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis: Production History Detail". www.repstl.org. Archived from the original on 2016-05-07. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  17. ^ Theater, Lincoln Center. "The Who & The What | Lincoln Center Theater". Lincoln Center Theater. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  18. ^ "NYTW / The Invisible Hand". NYTW. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  19. ^ "The Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights of the 2015--16 Season". AMERICAN THEATRE. 2015-09-15. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  20. ^ "JUNK: The Golden Age of Debt". www.lajollaplayhouse.org. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  21. ^ Gans, Andrew. " 'Junk', by Pulitzer Prize Winner Ayad Akhtar, Will Bow on Broadway This Fall" Playbill, February 6, 2017
  22. ^ Clement, Olivia. "Wall Street Play Junk Begins Performances on Broadway" Playbill, October 5, 2017
  23. ^ Clement, Olivia (March 5, 2018). "Ayad Akhtar Novel American Dervish Being Adapted for the Stage". Playbill.
  24. ^ Akhtar, Ayad (2017-11-30). Junk: A Play. Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-316-55072-7.
  25. ^ Akhtar, Ayad (2015-08-25). The Invisible Hand. Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-316-32453-3.
  26. ^ Akhtar, Ayad (2014-10-07). The Who & The What: A Play. Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-316-32449-6.
  27. ^ Akhtar, Ayad (2013-09-10). Disgraced: A Play. Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-316-32446-5.
  28. ^ "Little, Brown and Company Fall '11/Winter '12" (PDF). Little, Brown and Company. May 10, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2011. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  29. ^ Chow, Andrew (September 27, 2017). "Ayad Akhtar and Lucas Hnath Win Steinberg Awards". New York Times.
  30. ^ Paulson, Michael (2018-05-01). "2018 Tony Nominations: 'Mean Girls' and 'SpongeBob' Lead the Way". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  31. ^ Deb, Sopan (February 22, 2018). "Ayad Akhtar Wins Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History". New York Times.
  32. ^ "OBIE Award Winners Announced". www.obieawards.com. May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  33. ^ "AWARDS FOR 2014-2015". outercritics.org. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  34. ^ "The Invisible Hand - Lortel Archives". www.lortel.org. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  35. ^ ""Six Finalists Named For Steinberg/ATCA," nation's largest new play award".
  36. ^ "OBIE Winners" Archived 2013-06-14 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com
  37. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 13, 2013). Is Big Winner of 2012-13 Outer Critics Circle Awards "Pippin Is Big Winner of 2012-13 Outer Critics Circle Awards". Playbill. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  38. ^ Gans, Andrew (2013-05-21). "Natasha, Vanya and Sonia, Closer Than Ever, The Piano Lesson and More Win Off Broadway Alliance Awards". Playbill. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  39. ^ "Jeff Awards" (PDF). Jeffawards.com. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  40. ^ "Best Fiction of 2012 | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  41. ^ "The Globe's top 29 picks for international fiction of 2012". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  42. ^ "Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, December 28, 2012". www.shelf-awareness.com. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  43. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Books of 2012, Best Books of the Year 2012, Books". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  44. ^ King, Susan (November 30, 2005). "Getting into the Spirit of awards season". Los Angeles Times. p. E3.

External links[edit]