Trajal Harrell
Stephanie Amurao
Helan Boyd Auerbach
Vânia Doutel Vaz
Challenge Gambodete
Christopher Matthews
Nasheeka Nedsreal
Perle Palombe
Songhay Toldon
Ondrej Vidlar
Tiran Normanson

Trajal Harrell Direction, Choreography, Costume Design & Sound Design
Erik Flatmo & Trajal Harrell Set Design
Stéfane Perraud Lighting Design
Lennart Boyd Schürmann Director’s Assistant
Katinka Deecke Dramaturgy
Axel Satgé Production (MIF)
Steve Wald Technical Director
Sally Heard Wardrobe Manager
Zoe Hunn Stage Manager
James Claridge Sound Operator

Run time: 60 minutes

Produced by Manchester International Festival.

Maggie the Cat forms one part of a trilogy, Porca Miseria, commissioned by NYU Skirball, Manchester International Festival, Schauspielhaus Zürich, ONASSIS STEGI, Kampnagel (Hamburg), Holland Festival, the Barbican and Dance Umbrella, Berliner Festspiele and The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi.

LOGOS: Manchester International Festival, Schauspielhaus Zürich, ONASSIS STEGI, Kampnagel (Hamburg), Holland Festival, the Barbican and Dance Umbrella, NYU Skirball, Berliner Festspiele and The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi.

dramaturg’s note 

Trajal Harrell, best known for his series “Twenty Looks or Paris Burning at the Judson Church” that combined postmodern dance, voguing and theatre, takes on Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on the Hot Tin Roof. At the very least since the film adaption by Richard Brooks, it is a text that has entered into the collective white fantasy about the geo-historical phenomenon of the Southern States, perhaps only comparable to Gone with the Wind. In this second part of his trilogy Porca Miseria, Trajal Harrell completely inverts the perspective on this material. The focus is no longer on the decadent end of a feudal era and its rich plantation owners, but on the black servants whose point of view Harrell assumes. This is the starting point of Maggie the Cat, which then moves on to leave its template as far behind as possible. The servants are marginal figures in the play. Instead, Williams focuses on the white owners of a cotton planation, and especially on the “cat” Maggie and her husband Brick. It is, perhaps, precisely because it is missing the crucial perspective of the African Americans, who are almost always present but barely spekt, that Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a play about the South. In contrast to the invariably white protagonists, the African-American characters are given little text and are used by Williams only for auxiliary tasks: they answer the phone, sing birthday songs from the scenery, and hand around items as needed. The very same group of people (themselves or their ancestors) who produced Southern prosperity through cotton is so marginalized that their absence becomes an extremely present void. Harrell makes this the focus of Maggie the Cat.

In Maggie the Cat’s narrative, the performers are servants that move in a space that is not theirs. Just like Williams’ play, Harrell’s evening is a chamber play in which the living space of the wealthy, with its trinkets, objects and fetishes, is no longer inhabited by the proprietors, but by those who usually only set it up, keeping it clean and tidy. They have no right of residence in it. In Maggie the Cat, they appropriate and play with the everyday objects they find – towels, aprons, pillows, sheets – and invent unexpected usages for them. They turn the living room into an interior of light-spirited self-empowerment and redefine its use for themselves. On the one hand, the servants mimic Maggie as an obviously affluent woman who herself had to learn her role. She has never lost the consciousness that even wealth is just a role, coincidental and replaceable by other roles. On the other hand, this cultural appropriation from below is not just a matter of class but also of race. Much more than social injustice or class, skin colour divides opinions and has become a minefield of aesthetics and discourse. Harrell takes the risk of applying his strategies of artistic appropriation and redefinition not only to class and gender but to race, which he considers as a further means of constructing identity – playfully and beyond the discursive trenches.

In the real world, any kinds of racism and discrimination require sharp opposition. But the fact that art allows for a space in which discriminating practices can be transformed into beauty creates the very space in which freedom and togetherness can be experienced. In Maggie the Cat, Harrell saturates this space with reality. Perhaps it is Harrell’s sense of humour that, again and again, transforms his aesthetic deconstructions into playful, undogmatic offers. He uses the stage and its potential for transformation in order to convert playful claims into political food for thought. But all the while, these suggestions remain casual, aesthetic, quiet. Until Maggie finally slips in. Into the little black dress of the affluent, white woman.

–Katinka Deecke


The American choreographer and dancer Trajal Harrell is one of the most important choreographers of his generation. He rose to fame thanks to a series of works in which he combined a speculative view of history and canon with the idiom of post-modern dance, augmented with multiple elements from contemporary pop culture. For instance, he immersed himself in postmodern dance history and the voguing ballroom scene. In 2016 Harrell completed an Annenberg Residency at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art in New York), where he focused on the work of the Japanese founder of Butoh dance, Tatsumi Hijikata. In 2018, Harrell was named “Dancer of the Year” by the renowned German magazine Tanz. He subsequently created the introspective performance entitled Dancer of the Year in which he reflects on what winning this kind of award means and what exactly his role is as a dancer and a choreographer working on the intersection between various styles and cultures. 

Trajal Harrell has performed and had his work presented at Schauspielhaus Zurich (2022);Kunstenfestivaldesarts (2022); Romaeuropa Festival (2021); Kaai Theater, Brussels (2021); Fondation Cartier, Paris (2021); Sao Paulo Bienal (2021); Lafayette Anticipations, Paris (2021), Gwangju Biennale (2021); Impulstanz Festival, Vienna (2021); Holland Festival, Amsterdam (2020);Manchester International Festival (2019); Ludwig Musuem, Cologne (2019); Kanal Pompidou,Brussels (2019); Festival d’Automne, Paris (2019); The Kitchen, New York (2018); American Realness Festival, New York (2018); ICA Boston, Boston (2018); Philadelphia Fringe Festival (2018); MUDAM, Luxembourg (2018); The Kitchen, New York (2018); Tanz im August, Berlin (2017); The Barbican Centre London (2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017); Tanz im August, Berlin (2017); MoMA, New York (2016); Festival d’Avignon (2016); Serralves Museum, Porto (2016); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2015); Stedelijk Museum and Holland Festival (2014); CentrePompidou, Metz (2014); REDCAT Theater, Los Angeles (2014); MoMA PS1 (2013); Festival d’Automne, Paris (2013); TBA Festival, Portland (2013); and Panorama Festival, Rio de Janeiro (2012); Performa Biennial, New York (2011); The New Museum, New York (2009), among others.

He lives and works in between Athens, Greece; Zurich, Switzerland; and Georgia, USA. Currently he is the founding director of The Schauspielhaus Zürich Dance Ensemble.


NYU Skirball’s programs are made possible with support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and by Howard Gilman Foundation, FACE Foundation, General Delegation of the Government of Flanders to the USA, Collins Building Services, Consolidated Edison, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, and Marta Heflin Foundation, as well as our valued donors through memberships and commissioning fund support.