Dead White Zombies

  1. Happy Holiday and Happy New Year 2018! From the Dead White Zombies

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  2. Performed in West Dallas, Texas (April-May 2017), a super-fund site and former warehouse district in transition. Structured as a ritual initiation, the performance led audiences through fourteen sites in six different buildings on a journey of self-discovery. Six audience members (referred to as 'boners') were admitted every ten minutes. Entry point was Tacos Mariachi, a local restaurant. Audiences were given an "entry gesture" and address to the first site, down the street. Inside, boners were asked to pick a question (from twenty-four offered), to frame their journey. In the next room a diviner asked each to whisper their question and throw bones onto a map symbolizing venues and values. Audiences then traveled through a series of participatory performance installations. A video installation of birth, death, transition, and infinity, led to a room with Tan, a beautiful creature of anxiety, tension, seduction, and confusion. Then outdoors to Kei, a woman offering a stone of soul and directions. Down the street to an abandoned garage to Agent Zay, who weighted their stone and their authenticity. The inauthentic were remediated by Cadmus. Walking the streets to an empty industrial building and metaphysical questioning by Que. Bung, a dominatrix, probed further. Then Rem, comforting and welcoming, asked boners to travel a labyrinth of life symbols and wash their stone. To another building and Zun, offering medicinal brews and life messages. Through the streets encountering guides, to a meditative wash of song and dance, the world created anew. Down a hall to Vig, preparing hearing and being. Then to a storage building, and Sabu demonstrating life force. The last site, a long high chamber of gauze and shadows to Urd, where boners knotted their stone to an ever-expanding web of material. The performance ended with each boner photographed, their re-birth documented.


    Excerpt from a review: 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.

    David Novinski, Theatre Jones

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  3. (w)HOLE, the theater/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.

    video by Jordan Bellamy

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  4. 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.

    by Brentney Hamilton

    Dead White Zombies' T.N.B. runs through June 22 in a "former drug house" at 319 Poe Street in West Dallas.

    WEST DALLAS — It's a former drug house in West Dallas -- at least that's what the flyers claim. Paint chips and discarded plywood litter the broken sidewalk that leads from the empty back parking lot through knee-high weeds to the house where local performance art collective Dead White Zombies' newest site-specific installation takes place. It's arguably the most important "entertainment" that the Dallas arts community will see all year.

    I knew Dead White Zombies -- headed by UT Dallas professor Thomas Riccio -- would produce an intriguing, immersive experience; there was no doubt that its new production, mysteriously titled T.N.B., would be shocking enough or just plain odd enough to warrant a $15 admission ticket. Knowing now what T.N.B. offers, I would have paid significantly more.

    David Jeremiah as Spooky and Rhianna Mack as Charleene take viewers on a disturbing, high-energy experience that is like attending a heady African American Studies lecture on the set of a blaxploitation film.

    Written, directed, cast, and produced by Riccio and brought to life by a host of immensely talented actors, T.N.B. is frightening, sickening, humorous, unnerving, disturbing, and astonishing. There is no way to prepare for it, except by perhaps brushing up on your Cornel West, W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Malcom X, and blackploitation films. Read a critical review of Django Unchained while you're at it, since this production was written by an ostensibly non-African American writer. And, be prepared to confront the ghosts of your upbringing, whether they manifest more obviously in the form of White Guilt or still-stinging, if tacit, colonial oppression. No one is getting off the hook here.

    Without revealing too much, T.N.B. is graphic. We repeat: T.N.B. is graphic. There are "f" words and "n" words. There is simulated violence of the most chilling description. And, actors will look you in the eyes after committing atrocities and rhetorically ask your approval.

    Becki McDonald plays "Mama," a character that pushes and supports Spooky to live up to his potential and confront his past. As evidenced here, security cameras project images on walls so that audience members can keep up with the action from different rooms.

    Is it acceptable for artistic performances to use racially charged epithets? Is it forgivable, in a world where newsfeeds are constantly filled with reports of senseless shootings, for actors to brandish prop guns literally in the faces of -- and sometimes pointed at -- otherwise unassuming viewers? Of coursethese tactics are meant to disturb -- and it's clear that Riccio doesn't cheat with them simply for a cheap thrill. In fact, in later scenes, characters explicitly discuss the cultural implications, motivations, and immense power of the "n" word and the term "ho." In the end, Riccio's lesson is one of ritualistic healing, against all odds, and against miring self-destruction.

    But, despite the work's high-minded message, compelling arguments stand against artistic portrayals of racial violence -- both physical and verbal. Should such be avoided at the risk of inadvertent glamorization or at the accusation of gratuitous emotional pornography? Who suffers collateral damage? What are the consequences and who bears the responsibility? I don't know. I am not entirely comfortable condoning the usage of misogyny and racism, even recognizing that both are used in an artistic context as tools to authentically depict a meaningful story. But, without T.N.B.'s aggressive push, neither would I have frankly and honestly asked myself those -- and so many more -- significant questions.

    In a number of roles, Justin Locklear portrays both Spooky's [David Jeremiah] "identical" twin brother as well as a white "cracker" character who, according to the Dead White Zombies website, "variously supports, mocks, and challenges Spooky to consider his life, his performance of blackness, and self-destruction."
    The action of T.N.B. takes place in a dilapidated house with a circular interior path -- making use of this set up, characters jump from room to room, often coming perilously close to onlookers.

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Dead White Zombies

Thomas Riccio PRO

A Dallas-based group of malcontent theatre, performance, visual, sound, and installation artists.

We see ourselves as ironic and fun loving agent provocateurs living in an age of conformity, franchise, mass marketing, and intellectual and cultural…

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A Dallas-based group of malcontent theatre, performance, visual, sound, and installation artists.

We see ourselves as ironic and fun loving agent provocateurs living in an age of conformity, franchise, mass marketing, and intellectual and cultural leveling to the lowest and most banal common denominator.

Thomas Riccio is the Poo Pah Doo of the group.

We simply do things the way we want to do it, where, and how, because we don’t know what else to do.

The emphasis is on new, experimental, and collectively created performance work that defies categories and conventions.

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