Talya Chalef Directs Port Cities NYC

June 3, 2016

Playwriting alumna Talya Chalef ’13 is the director/deviser of the first installment of The Port/Cities Project, which recently premiered in New York.

The multi-stage international performance art project will take place in five cities across the global, each city chosen according to 17th-century Dutch trade routes. The first production, referred to by the project as a “movement,” took place in New York in May under Chalef’s direction; further movements will bring the project to Perth, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Jakarta, Indonesia. Each city’s movement will take place on or near what would have been the city’s main port during the 17th century, and will incorporate local history, folklore and current issues.

According to the Port/Cities website, Chalef’s movement, Port Cities NYC, “highlights systems of trade and cycles of violence.” The production had audiences meet at Pier 11 in Manhattan’s Financial District, then sail across the river on a soundscape-equipped ferry to Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, where they boarded the Waterfront Museum Barge for a multimedia performance. The production featured a live musical score by Cameron Orr, visuals by Horus Vacui and an acting ensemble that enacted the roles of early settler icons and modern citydwellers.

Chalef co-­founded the Public Works Department with Sofy Yuditskaya and serves as a member of the global artist group Mapping Spectral Traces. Her interdisciplinary work explores themes of social justice, memory, history and identity and seeks out new forms of performance. She has been a resident artist at such institutions as the Watermill Center, the ArtsHouse North Melbourne Meat Market, Abbotsford Convent Melbourne, Space on Ryder Farm, Mount Tremper Arts, and the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, and has received such awards as the Columbia Dean's Fellowship, the Elizabeth Murdoch Travel Fellowship, multiple Besen Family Foundation Awards and the Australian Council of the Arts 2014 ArtStart Grant.