“When The Sea Rises” Directed by May Joseph, Harmattan Theater. Cochin, India, 2011

“When the Sea Rises” was a collaboration between Harmattan Theater, martial arts performers and trance performers from Kerala, South India. I worked with a group of Kalaripayatti performers I used to train with, and collaborated with three Theyyem performers
to create what I saw as a dream sequence purging the now forgotten medieval history of the Fort Cochin seawall that winds its way down the bay into the open sea. The wonderfully gifted Muthu Muzhi and the divine performers Midhilesh, Similesh, Akhilesh, and Manish transformed this ancient sea wall into a powerful encounter between humans and the sea.

Far Rockaway, Harmattan Theater

Far Rockaway, Harmattan Theater

Francis Bradley, Lisabeth During and Nandini Sikand perform at Tribute Park, Far Rockaway, 2013, on Hurricane Sandy anniversary.

Far Rockaway, Harmattan Theater

Far Rockaway, Harmattan Theater

Performance at Tribute Park, Far Rockaway, anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, 2013.

Far Rockaway Performance, Harmattan Theater

Far Rockaway Performance, Harmattan Theater

Performance at Tribute Park, Beach 116, Rockaway Park, October 2013.
Beach 116 is a street that was completely washed away by Hurricane Sandy. Its residents suffered much hardship and misery. Harmattan Theater produced Far Rockaway in collaboration with the community of Beach 116. This piece is a celebration of the street’s revival.

Fluid New York: Cosmopolitan Urbanism and the Green Imagination

Fluid New York: Cosmopolitan Urbanism and the Green Imagination

Fluid New York is a memoir of New York City between Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg’s mayorship. It is an exploration of archipelagic New York, the city of many islands, more than the five boroughs we are customary used to thinking about. The book explores the forgotten and buried water traces of the city.  It connects quotidian practices to the hidden ecological memory of the city’s past. An ancient pond, an old river bed, a former swampland, are all now part of what we call New York City. Yet, how people use these now transformed sites have uncanny and sometimes, conscious connections to this forgotten ecological past. The most evocative of these environmental traces is New York’s forgotten shoreline. Hurricane Sandy dramatically reshaped New York’s relationship to this palimpsestic shoreline perpetually transformed through its Native American, Dutch, British and American land reclamation techniques. Fluid New York is a wake up call to rethink the implications of island cities. New York is an accident of water. It is a city vulnerable to storm surge. Its archipelagic structure demands new ways of thinking about its future growth. 

Refuge City

New York City is a refuge city. It is a city that has seen different sorts of displacements and always been a hospitable place for the displaced. With Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers transformed the city into a refuge city, opening their homes, couches, and offices to friends and strangers, providing convivial help where ever possible, at the junction of traffic light stops where the lights had stopped working, at corners of streets where stranded tourists sought directions, and at home where old acquaintances called seeking a safe bed for the night.

New York is a refuge city in ethos. It is a city that understands that disaster is a shared communal burden. How New Yorkers cope with large disasters never stops to impress.

Coastal Cities, Rising Waters

The last 72 hours leading towards Hurricane Sandy hitting New York City, was a scene of chaos and national unpreparedness. 2.8 million people without power in New York City, hospitals in New York whose back up generators did not work, inadequate attention paid to Storm surge warnings by the Atlantic City mayor, over 10,000 flights cancelled with many more cancellations to follow, leaving travellers in stranded disarray. Many things that could have been more efficiently managed, were not adequately attended to. The scale of the black out in New York along with the extensive water damage, leaves New York in a place of reinvention once again. The sea is a central component to New York’s future. We are not ready to deal with the scale of water management required to secure New York’s extensive shoreline. How the city recovers from this devastating disruption to its public transportation networks and its low lying neighborhoods will tell us how far we have come since Robert Moses’s city designed for the car, cutting New York’s residents from its spectacular shores. The sea now comes to the city, demanding we engage with its shifting rhythms.

Hurricane Sandy

New York City cut off from the rest of New York- Manhattan’s island-ness is once again made prominent. Over 14 inches of water in Battery Park City, all of New York City ravaged and made vulnerable. Subways flooded. Downtown Manhattan without power. Island City’s like Manhattan have to deal with their island-ness with greater ecological awareness than has been given the island’s coastline historically.  Will Hurricane Sandy reshape how we imagine our future as an island city? 


Harmattan Theater, Mar Portugues, Da Gama’s Last Dream.
Terreiro Do Paco, Lisbon, Portugal

Edge of the Sea

When The Sea Rises

Kalaripayatti Performance