Environmental performance company Harmattan Theater produces site specific durational movement events at the junctures of land and sea. Harmattan’s ocean based installations harness performance, gesture, dance, voice and movement as tools of climate aesthetics. Exploring the anthropocene as a place of encounters between the nonhuman, the posthuman and the more-than-human experiences, Harmattan theater has curated over twenty ocean immersive performances engaging with water politics in New York City and across coastal regions internationally. For the last ten years, Harmattan theater has engaged abandoned piers, buried rivers, islands, archipelagos, waterfronts, seawalls, beaches, mudflats and superfund sites around the world, reviving forgotten historical and environmental coastal knowledges among local residents. What forms of knowing can we imbibe from the oceans, and how can we craft an emergent language of enlightened coexistence with a violently morphing shoreline? Harmattan has created performances along numerous bodies of water including the Indian Ocean in Cochin, the Cape of Good Hope in Cape Town; the Tagus River of Lisbon, the Amstel River in Amsterdam, the Atlantic Ocean, the East River, the New York Harbor, the Tevere of Rome, the Yamuna River of Delhi, the Venice Lagoon, the Bhosphorous in Istanbul as well as the Hudson River in Manhattan, foregrounding their eroding coastal histories. The Harmattan theater collective believe that theater is a vibrant pedagogical and life practice for comprehending climate change and ocean consciousness. Walking as methodological tool is central to Harmattan’s oceanic perambulations.

May Joseph is a Professor at the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies, and the coordinator of the Critical Visual Studies major at Pratt Institute. Joseph trained in Directing and Playwrighting at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Department of Theatre and Dance, where she got a PhD in Dramatic Art. Her directorial interests lie in bringing together voice, ritual, movement, mime, dance and trance techniques in dialogue with seascapes, rivers and oceans.  Her work draws upon the Indian environmental and folk theater traditions of the Jatra, Chautu Nadagam and Indian street theater movements, Kalaripayyati, Theyyem, Bharata Natyam, and the experimental theater techniques of Jerzy Grotowski, Eugenio Barba, Marina Abramovicz and Bertolt Brecht.


by May Joseph