Thomas Riccio has set himself no easy task. It is the aim of his research to eventually incorporate elements of aboriginal performance into traditionally Western performance, liberating it from its shackles and making it a more spiritual, more intense and it should be said, more natural experience for the audience. Perhaps, in the process, the audience themselves may be more empowered to counter the alienation gradually overtaking Western culture.

The Leader, South Africa

Inspired by an ancient Inupiat legend, the drama is conceived and directed after years of research by Tom Riccio. Qayaq: The Magical Man is a mesmerizing celebration of the richness of Alaska Native culture an impressive achievement.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Thomas Riccio, the artistic director of Dead White Zombies, the avant-garde theater ensemble behind the Whole Foods antics, might argue that not only did the performance happen, but there might be something more real about it than what happens in a traditional theater. In the five years since it launched, Dead White Zombies has garnered a reputation for staging off-the-wall, experimental theater—site-specific immersions that eschew the constructs of traditional theatrical performance. Taking over vacant or abandoned spaces—warehouses in West Dallas, a former crack house in Oak Cliff—the Zombies have staged critically acclaimed performance-happenings that often call into question the boundary between audience and performer. In each of these productions, confrontation is one of Dead White Zombies’ key ingredients, part of a plan that continually thinks of ways to dissolve the fourth wall or turn audience members into unwitting participants in the drama.

Peter Simek, D Magazine


I am a performance creator, director, writer and scholar and who, for nearly thirty years, has conducted workshops and created contemporary performances that blend scholarly research, cultural reclamation, social and political reconciliation, drama therapy, and aesthetic production.  My work utilizes traditional, ritual, mythological, and performance expressions unique to the context and objectives of a project. Context, in its fullest and most comprehensive understanding, shapes each project.

Typically a performance project requires a three month residency which includes, 1) field research and documentation in ritual and traditional performance, 2) followed by workshops with local performers, a skills exchange and performance laboratory and, 3) the creation of a devised, ensemble-created performance, which becomes an embodiment, diagram, and venue for social and cultural remediation and expression.

The short-term objectives of include: indigenous and traditional performance research and documentation, education and skills exchange, social reconciliation, cultural activism, and artistic production. The long-term goal is a comprehensive methodological and theoretical documentation of traditional and indigenous performance expressions, their function, and context.

The ultimate ambition of the research is to articulate a viable alternative to the ubiquitous western performance expressions that are shaping our emerging global culture.

Essentially a project aspires to identify, document, and apply indigenous and traditional expressions as an alternative. Rather than adopting western dramaturgical and performance expressions unquestioningly my work seeks to activate performers as an activist, creators and tradition bearers who reimagine and empower themselves and cultures through the medium of performance.

This approach functions on multiple levels simultaneously, and often includes aspects of personal, social, and cultural reconciliation. In this way, a unique cultural expression and worldview, often syncretic, always dynamic and unique, is given expression, enriching and evolving, not only personal and cultural identity, but also the dialogue of globalization. Each culture offers up unique resources and perspectives that are marginalized or disappearing.