Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Graduated from Brown University with a degree in Theater. On graduating, Ayad moved to Tuscany, Italy, where he spent a year working with world-renowned acting theorist and pioneer, Jerzy Grotowski (Towards a Poor Theater). A resident of New York City since 1997, Ayad has been active in the New York theater community, teaching acting on his own and alongside Andre Gregory (My Dinner With Andre, Vanya on 42nd St). He is also an alumnus of the Graduate Film Program at Columbia University, where he graduated with a degree in directing. Akhtar's work at Columbia earned him the New York Documentary Center's Young Documentary Filmmakers' Award, an IFP Audience Choice Award and Programming Committee's Award for Best Film at the 2003 Columbia University Film Festival. He is the author of numerous screenplays, including Child Soldier, based on world-renown activist China Keitetsi's true story. Ayad was star and co-writer of The War Within (HDNet Films).