project image
Tod Seelie

first performed on October 14, 2014
The Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY
performed fourteen times in 2014


Sarah McMillan, Nick Chatfield-Taylor, George Graham, Chelsea Wagner, Caledonia Curry, Jason Engdahl, Suchan Vodoor, Ken Schatz, E. James Ford, Ava Eisenson, Zero Boy, Theresa Buchheister, Coco Conroy, Jo Firestone, Ryan Downey

New York, NY


The Dreary Coast is trespass theater. It is a show in a place where you do not expect a show—in this case on a raft on the Gowanus Canal, a horribly polluted superfund site in New York. This original piece centered on the mythic character Charon, the boatman on the River Styx, and combined site-specific performance, guided tour, functional sculpture, handmade costumes, live music and pirate FM radio transmission.

At each show, audiences were robed in costumes and glided down the canal on a boat at night. These small audiences encountered actors and performances at bridges, docks and buildings along the way. We imagined the show as a kind of Pirates of the Caribbean ride amid a crumbling industrial neighborhood beset by pollution, flood and condo developers.

My projects blur the edge between fiction and reality, between narrative and non-narrative space, allowing audiences to question which parts of the event have been staged and which parts existed prior to the show. I am interested in risk, and in making explicit the relationship between artists and audiences. Our show did not ask for permission or permits. In this way, we remind each other that artists have a right and an obligation to participate in public space, a right to imagine what our cities can look like in the future—and the now.

The work was collaborative, featuring the efforts of 50 artists, designers and performers and was entirely self-produced.