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Michael Shayan
Photo by Davide Laffe

Michael Shayan

Michael Shayan

Michael Shayan

Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

“It’s strange to look up and realize you’re living a lifelong dream,” says Michael Shayan, a queer Iranian-American Jewish writer and performer. But in 2023 he made it happen when he premiered his solo show Avaaz at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif., with the help of an award-winning team led by Tony-nominated director Moritz von Stuelpnagel. In Avaaz, Shayan plays his mother and shares the story of her escape from Tehran to “Tehran-geles,” California, during the Iranian Revolution.

“With Avaaz, I tried to write what I thought would be an impossible challenge; I wanted to push my limits as a writer and performer,” says Shayan. “I’m a maximalist — I try to give my audiences the same intensity of feeling you’d get at a Beyoncé concert or from trying to get tickets to one. I use extravagant humor and larger-than-life characters to tear into my most impossible questions and deepest pain.”

Avaaz wasn’t Shayan’s first big success in the industry. In 2023 he received an Emmy nomination for his writing on the Max series The Book of Queer, where he also served as a consulting producer. He worked on the Emmy-winning We’re Here as well.

In March, Avaaz will premiere on the East Coast at the Olney Theatre Center in Maryland. Shayan also wrote a new play for Audible about a group of addicts stuck on a gay cruise from hell called Cruising, which will premiere early next year.

Reflecting on his success, Shayan says, “I come from a culture where people like me can’t exist, and art gave me a way to imagine new possibilities for myself, my family, and my intersectional communities.” He adds, “I hope that my queerness, my Iranianness, my Jewishness ripples out into the world with my work and helps empower others to make their own ripples.” @michaelshayan


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