Joanna Settle is an award-winning director and arts educator based in Abu Dhabi. Settle is known for creating and curating contemporary performance across multiple disciplines: opera, theater, performance art, cabaret and installation. Her work and her teaching pedagogy approach performance making as a method of inquiry.
Recent productions include the world premiere of Sky on Swings, a new opera presented by Opera Philadelphia; Noura by Heather Raffo presented by Washington, DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYC’s Playwright’s Horizons; and most recently, Al Raheel | Departure, a new performance piece commissioned by The Arts Center and Cultural Foundation Abu Dhabi, co-created with Emirati writer Reem Almenhali. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of 10 Days in a Madhouse by Rene Orth and Hannah Moscovitch for Opera Philadelphia, and a work of performative installation titled Salt Lake Excerpt, co-commissioned with Blane De St Croix for NYUAD Art Gallery.
As a curator, Settle works to develop platforms for innovation in performance. Most recently, in February 2023 she co-curated, with Nada Reza and Mays Albaik, Stepping Forward: Performance Research and Practice, Here a convening that brought to the UAE 40 artists, curators and scholars from around the world to consider critical questions around performance practice emerging from the region. In collaboration with 421, Alserkal Arts Foundation and New York University Abu Dhabi, the symposium served as a collective ground on which to construct new models for performance beyond the hegemonic vocabulary of canon/outsider, center/periphery, or the “decolonial” as a blanket term. This project is ongoing.
Settle has received commissions from The Public Theater, Joe’s Pub, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Philadelphia, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, NYUAD Art Gallery. Her work has been seen at PS122, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, MASS MoCA, all venues at the Public Theater, Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, The Wilma Theater, Brooklyn’s Old American Can Factory and multiple site specific venues. She holds a BA in Theater Directing and Design from Hampshire College (Amherst, MA) and an MFA (equivalent) from the Juilliard School, Drama Division (New York City). She is a member of the SDC Directors Union and has benefitted from being a resident artist with HERE ArtsCenter, Mabou Mines, Cité International des Arts. She served as artistic director for Shakespeare on the Sound (Rowayton/Greenwich, CT) from 2008–2012 and for Division 13 Productions (Chicago/NYC) from 1998–2005.