Performance and Ethnographic Documentary

Directing: About Face 2019

Directing: About Face 2019

T.N.B. (typical nigga behavior), Dead White Zombies

EXCERPT FROM A REVIEW Art performance in former Dallas drug house is DFW’s most fearless this year No one else in Dallas is taking these risks...T.N.B. is frightening, sickening, humorous, unnerving, disturbing, and astonishing. 

A documentation of the Huan Nuo Yuan ritual of the Miao people of Western Hunan, China. Official entry of several international film festivals.





Dallas Video Festival

Dallas Video Festival



Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria

(w)hole, Dead White Zombies (excerpt)

video by Jordan Bellamy

Performance art/installation project currently converting a West Dallas warehouse into purgatory’s playland, predicts that about human nature. It emboldens us for complete immersion by derobing our timidity, right from the start. And it does it with a gentle touch and a small, protective stone. Orchestrated by Dead White Zombies in a 36,000 square foot warehouse on generous loan by Trinity Groves, (w)HOLE is a sort-of love story set on postmortem repeat. It’s a funneling of ideas, philosophy and original letters, staged around desperate wanting, then channeled through a theater’s surrogates.
— from a review, Dallas Observer

There is Never a Reference Point, StoryLAB, Dallas

A performance immersion inspired by the journal writings and watercolors of Jamie Dakis, a woman diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, commonly known as multiple personality disorder. The event took the form of an immersive, interactive “walk-through” presentation where “visitors” explored and experienced each of Jamie’s ten personalities. Using live and media performance, Jamie’s personalities presented themselves, interacting, sharing histories, artifacts, visions, and inspirations, to portray the complexity of Jamie's overlapping and multiple realities. Each visitor into her consciousness was required to put together their own understanding of a Jamie’s world, and in turn, their own. Each personality was performed by an actor; the personalities included: 1) Jamie, the host, 2) Patricia, the abused young girl, 3) Patty, the conflicted teenager, 4) Misty, the young stripper, 5) James, the cowboy protector, 6) Rita, the rational student, 7) Marta, the angry, judgmental mother, 8) Magick, the fun loving sexy goddess, 9) Chica, the innocent dancer and artist, and 10) Cleopatra, the reassuring and wise archetype. 

Makanda Mahlanu, kwaZulu Natal, South Africa

A street performance commissioned by the Natal Performing Arts Council, Durban, South Africa, in 1993. With the end of white rule and in anticipation of South Africa's first open and non-racial democratic elections, Thomas Riccio devised and directed a performance that toured throughout Natal and kwaZulu (Zululand) to educate and celebrate the coming elections. Based on a Zulu myth and applying folk, popular, and traditional forms of Zulu performance, song and dance, Makanda Mahlanu (the snake with five heads) educated its audiences to the voting and democracy. Makanda Mahlanu was performed in urban and rural areas, in front of clinics, at bus stations, in open fields, union halls, school yards and squatter camps, educating its often semi-literate audience who had never known democracy or the process of voting.

Imipashi (the spirits), National Tour, Zambia

Our performance of Imipashi, which means “the spirits” in Bemba, had evolved from the Litooma Project, a three month program of workshops, performance development, and touring. The idea and ambition of the Litooma Project was unlike anything Zambia had seen before. It was a first-ever national theatre project, bringing together performers from tribes (who were sometimes rival) all over Zambia. What evolved was Imipashi, an allegory inspired by a well-known Lozi myth, tracing the journey of the Zambian people from creation to the corruption of present day nationhood. Never had such a “national” theatre project ever been attempted.  

an excerpt from Performing Africa

Shadows from the Planet Fire, St. Petersburg, Russia

A ritual devised in collaboration with the Metamorphosis Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia., 1992. A group dedicated to creating pre-Christian, Slavic rituals. Directed by Thomas Riccio. Created though improvisation and trance techniques. This clip is of the ending sequence. Presented in here in the Baltic House Theatre lobby, later presented on Russian national television and toured the Ural Mountain region. 

Holy Bone, Dead White Zombies

A video loop. Presented in Tan's "anxiety room" at the onset of the audience's journey through the Holy Bone. A multi-site journey initiation presented by the Dead White Zombies, Spring 2017. Video by Thomas Riccio

Holy Bone 2017

There are no comfy seats, glossy playbills or curtain calls. They’ve long jettisoned those theatrical touchstones. Though there are scenic elements, they occur in concert with their environment like art installations taking advantage of the buildings, the neighborhood and even the time of day. The dusk night sky lends itself to stunning visuals of downtown in particular. The immersive environments allow for more varied sensory input than traditional theatre. Soundscapes are employed in many of the locations with an emphasis on blurring boundaries of the noise of the environs be they physical or mental. In one stunningly vast room, the quiet was engulfing on the night I walked through. In another, the source of sound was moved around the audience instead. There are locations that traffic in olfactory overload like incense. Sprinkled along the way are interactive moments from the tactile to taste. Be ready for anything.
— Theatre Jones

A Miao Healer Bowl Eating Demonstration, China

Performed by Shi Bang Wu, a Badai (shaman-like faith healer), a Miao (ethnic minority) in Western Hunan, China. From and interview..."When I eat the bowl I begin to have a sixth sense and to see sickness. but this sensation not always. Riccio: Do you go into trance? Shi: No, I do not use trance—I eat the bowl and am connected with the gods and a vision comes." 

Theru Koothu Funeral Performance, India

Theru Koothu is a 2000 year old dance/theatre folk tradition still practiced today in Tamil Nadu, southern India. Both sacred and profane, ritual and entertainment, the performance begin after 9pm and continue until dawn. In this video, shot in February 2013, the Koothu troupe performs sections of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata to console a family and to end their 15 day mourning period.

Miao Initiation Ritual, China

An excerpt from a three-day shamanic initiation ritual performed by master Badai, Sh Jing He, deep in the Wu Ling Mountains, Huan China. 

Today We Sing, !Xuu and Khwe Bushmen, Kalahari

Excerpts from a research and workshop project with the !Xuu and Khwe Bushmen conducted by Thomas Riccio. The project included eight traditional healers and their assistants. Includes scenes from healing rituals and an oral history project.

N'Cwala, annual  first fruits ritual, Zambia

An excerpt from an annual ritual that takes place on the Zambia-Malawi border among the Ngoni people. Part of an ongoing field research project in ritual performance conducted by Thomas Riccio and the Litooma Project.

Andegna (The First), Ethiopia

A devised performance developed and performed during the fall and winter of 2009–10 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This production examined the complex social, political, and cultural contexts that informed the training, workshops, and process of creating an ensemble and performance in a time of national transformation. Urbanization and the crossing currents of Africa, Islam, Christian Orthodoxy, capitalism, the West, and technology prompted the re-conceptualization of performance, its function, and expression. Thomas Riccio's work highlights the methodologies of reinventing an indigenous performance that is respectful of local traditions yet contemporary and accessible, demonstrating how performance provides a forum for revealing social, political, and cultural trauma, and itself becomes an act of affirmation – an assertion of protest and healing that makes visible, immediate, and tactile the histories and unresolved issues haunting modern Ethiopia. 

Qayaq: The Magical Man, Tuma Theatre, Alaska

A devised performance by Tuma Theatre, Fairbanks, Alaska 1991. Directed and Choreographed by Thomas Riccio. Inspired by traditional Yup'ik Eskimo story and applying Alaska Native performance expressions.

Holy Bone, Dead White Zombies

A video that appeared in the "remediation room," one of the fourteen sites that were traveled during the course of Holy Bone. In this video Cadmus speaks to those audience members who did not pass the authenticity test of Agent Zay. Spring 2017. Performed by Thomas Riccio.