An actress, director, and producer of Syrian and Filipino descent, Maha Chelaoui lives in New York City. In 2001, she sought out Arab-American theater artists and with them, began Nibras, an Arab-American Theater Collective. She directed the inaugural show, Sajjil: Record, which was awarded Best Ensemble at the NY International Fringe Festival (2002).
As artistic director of Nibras until 2005, Maha’s goal was to identify and support Arab-American talent. She held readings of works by writers including Nathalie Handal, Yussef El-Guindi and Rana Kazkaz. She also co-produced Acts for Palestine (2005) with Kazbah Project and Al-Jisser Group- an evening of one acts by Palestinian playwrights to support the Made in Palestine art exhibit.
With Nibras member Leila Buck, Maha oversaw a workshop series led by and for Arab performance artists. Together they held a workshop in devising work through interview and improvisation at the Miami Dade University (2006). Maha also served the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival (NYAACF) as a production manager of the sketch nights for their first few years. For the NYAACF Maha performed in various sketches and directed Sajjil, The Panel, and Live! With Pascale and Chantal which went on to be a hit at the Fringe Festival (2003).
Maha continues to work with NYAACF and in 2009 was named artistic director of the sketch events. She is proud of the growth of the Arab performance community in the United States, and grateful for the role she has played in it.