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Thomas Riccio

Thomas Riccio

Director, Theatre Program
Professor — Visual and Performing Arts
Visiting Professor, Ethnography, Jishou University, China
Affiliate, Center for Asian Studies
JO 5.614
Thomas Riccio
Dead White Zombies

Professional Preparation

M.F.A. - Theatre
Boston University - 1982
B.A. - English
Cleveland State University - 1978

Research Areas

Areas of Specialization
 Performance Studies and Ethnography, Media Performance and Installation, Indigenous Performance, Ritual and Shamanism, Acting, Stage Directing, Dramaturgy, Theatre Theory, Literature, and Criticism.


Operations 2024 - Book Chapter
Adaptation and Acceptance 2024 - Book Chapter
Coda 2024 - Book Chapter
David Hanson 2024 - Book Chapter
Elements 2024 - Book Chapter
Introductions and Contexts 2024 - Book Chapter
Sophia Robot 2024 - Book
The Writing Team 2024 - Book Chapter


Professor, Visual and Performing Arts
University of Texas at Dallas [2003–Present]
Artistic Director
Dead White Zombies, Dallas [2011–Present]
Visiitng Professor, Ethnography and Anthropology
Jishou University, China [2016–2020]
Creative Director
Hanson Robotics [2018–2019]
Lead Narrative Engineer, 2005-2009
Visiting Professor
Pondicherry University, India [2013–2013]
Visiting Professor, Theatre
University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania [1999–2000]
Visiting Professor
California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco [1997–1998]
Visiting Professor
Korean National University of the Arts, Seoul [1996–1997]
Theatre, Directing, Indigenous Performance
Professor, Theatre
University of Alaska Fairbanks [2001–2003]
Assistant/Associate Professor 1988-2001 Department Head 1988-1999 Artistic Director, Tuma Theatre (Alaska Native) 1989-1996
Artistic Director
Organic Theatre Company, Chicago, IL [1985–1988]


Ritual, Shamanism, and Indigenous Performance
Miao Culture Bureau, Jishou County, Hunan, China Research in Miao Folk Performance and Ritual. Supported By The Xiangxi Cultural Bureau and Jishou University. December-January 2002-03. Research Fieldwork With Badai (spirit healers and Nuo folk performance. Initial research began in 2001. Project continuation December 2015 - January 2016 and ongoing Tamil Nadu, India. Initial Research conducted in Terukoothu, Tamil folk performance tradition, February-March 2013 Lul Theater, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaArtist-In-Residence, conducting a workshop, and developed a workshop production; conducted research on indigenous performance and spiritual practices. A Litooma Project, Fall 2009 Kenya, Tanzania, and Burkina FasoPerformance research and workshops; sponsored by The East Africa Theatre Association, Community Health Awareness Puppet Program, and FITMO. 1999-2002 !Xuu And Khwe Cultural Project, Kalahari Desert, and field research with the !Xuu and Khwe Bushmen. A Litooma Project, Summer 1994 Center For The Arts, Lusaka, Zambia Director/Choreographer Imipashi, and Workshop instructor. A Litooma Project to revitalized traditional Zambian performance. February-May 1994 Natal Performing Arts Council, Durban, South Africa, director/choreographer, and performer: Makanda Mahlanu. Director, Hlanganani Project. Production tour of 51 performances throughout Natal and Zululand. A Litooma Project, August-December 1993 Sakha National Theatre, Yakutsk, Republic of Sakha (Siberia) Workshop instructor and director/choreographer, Sardaana. Included extensive travel and field research in the Shamanistic traditions of Sakha.  A Litooma Project, May-August 1993 Tuma Theatre, Fairbanks, AlaskaArtistic director/instructor Alaska Native performance program. Travel, academic research, and fieldwork throughout Alaska.  Director and Choreographer of seven Tuma Theatre productions.  1989-1998 Kwasa Group, The Natal Performing Arts Council, Durban, South Africa  Director/Choreographer, Emandulo (The Ancient One). Performed 28 times in South Africa. A Litooma Project, Spring 1992 Metamorphosis Theatre, St. Petersburg, RussiaWorkshops and director/choreographer: Shadows From The Planet Fire. Performed Baltic Theatre, St. Petersburg, and Russian, Ukraine, and Bulgaria tour. A Litooma Project, Summer 1992 Springs Theatre, Holstebro, DenmarkConducted performance workshops for a refugee Tamil group; co-Directed King Harichandra (based on a Hindu legend) A Litooma Project, Spring-Summer 1992 Tùkak' Teatret, Fjaltring, DenmarkGuest artist and workshop instructor in movement, Alaskan Eskimo dance and drumming, a Litooma project, Summer 1992 World Eskimo-Indian Olympics at the University of Alaska Museum, FairbanksWriter/director/choreographer, Northern Inua, a demonstration performance of traditional Alaska Native Games. Summers 1989-2003

Additional Information

Brief Bio
Thomas Riccio, performance and media artist, writer, and director, is a Professor of Performance and Aesthetics at the University of Texas at Dallas, previous positions: Professor of Theatre, University of Alaska; Artistic Director, Chicago's Organic Theater Company; Resident Director, Cleveland Play House; Assistant Literary Director, American Repertory Theatre (Harvard); Visiting Professorships: Jishou University--Ethnography and Anthropology (China), University of Dar es Salaam--Theatre, University of Pondicherry (India), University of Nairobi, and the Korean National University for the Arts. Artistic Director, Tuma Theatre, an Alaska Native performance group. He has over 100 productions at the University and Professional level. Directing at American regional theatres, including, LaMama ETC, The New York Theatre Workshop, and the National Theatre of Italy. Riccio works extensively in the area of indigenous performance, ethnography, ritual, and shamanism, developing performances and fieldwork in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Russia, Alaska, Korea, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, and the Republic of Sakha (Siberia), which declared him a “Cultural Hero.” Notable projects include devising/directing performances in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2009), the !Xuu Bushmen of the lower Kalahari (1994), the Zulu of South Africa (1992 and 1993), and a nationwide touring performance in Zambia (1994). He is working on a long-term research and performance project with the Miao, an ethnic minority group in western China (2015-18) which will culminate with a large-scale devised performance with traditional healers. Riccio has conducted workshops and given lectures and workshops throughout the world, most notably at the national theatre schools of Poland, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia. He has received numerous honors and grants for his projects. Academic writings have appeared in TDR, TheatreForum, Theatre Topics, Theatre Research International, and PAJ. Peter Lang published Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theater, and Culture. He is the recipient of the International Distinction Prize in Playwriting from the Alexander Onassis Foundation and was a Narrative Engineer for Hanson Robotics. His photographs, videos, and installations have been exhibited in a variety of galleries. He is the Artistic Director of Dead White Zombies, a Dallas-based, post-disciplinary performance group, most designing/writing/directing performance immersions, T.N.B. (2013), kaRaoKe MoTeL (2014), DP92 (2015), Holy Bone (2017), About Face (video 2021 broadcast KERA/PBS Dallas). Currently working on Jakala for DWZ. He was an artist in residence at Halka (Istanbul 2013), the Watermill Art Center (2016), and the Ionian Center for the Arts, Kafelonia, Greece (2021) He collaborated with Sibyl Kempson on a series of performance rituals at the Whitney Museum, NYC (2016). Recently wrote and directed Blue Jelly for UTD and is working with Laura Kim on a video rendering. His documentary films have appeared in festivals internationally. Currently completing a full-length documentary dealing with the ritual and spirit medium traditions of the Miao people. Since 2005 he has worked intermittently with Hanson Robotics creating social robot characters for the robots Einstein, PK Dick, Bina, Zeno, and Sophia. He was Creative Director for Hanson Robotics 2018-2019. &

News Articles

Life on the edge: Avant-garde theatre, dance thrive in Dallas
Life on the edge: Avant-garde theatre, dance thrive in Dallas
Going to a Dead White Zombies show is always an adventure, none more so than its latest production, Holy Bone. Arriving at a West Dallas taco joint in staggered intervals, audience members are sent to a nearby storefront for their first encounter. Over the next couple of hours, they will navigate Singleton Boulevard on foot, cajoled and confronted by Thomas Riccio's performance troupe inside a series of abandoned warehouse spaces.
"The work is hard to explain because it's more of a felt thing, an idea that's in the body, not the head," he says a few days later at Tacos Mariachi as showtime approaches. "It's like a walking meditation. When you're on the street and don't know where to go, that's part of it, too." click link
Dead White Zombies and the Holy Bone
Dead White Zombies and the Holy Bone As a Dead White Zombies virgin, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the performance. Would I be humiliated and forced to interact with the performers? I wondered if I would be able to fully immerse myself in the experience, since I was also photographing the event. Two friends accompanied me—both DWZ veterans, whose presence emboldened me.At the first station, I was asked to choose a question that would direct my focus for the evening. I’m not going to reveal my chosen question, or much about the particulars of the evening, except to report that the performance left an indelible impression on me. At moments during the performance, I felt confused, manipulated, irritated, defiant, contemplative, peaceful, and by the end—completely exhausted both physically and mentally. My one regret is that I didn’t go twice, first to experience and second to link 
This Troupe Is Probably Staging a ‘Show’ Right Now You've never experienced theater quite like the Dead White Zombies.
This Troupe Is Probably Staging a ‘Show’ Right Now

You've never experienced theater quite like the Dead White Zombies.
On a gray and misty Saturday afternoon in December, the Whole Foods in Lakewood is crowded with shoppers stocking up on groceries for the week. The lines at the checkouts are four or five deep, and the bar area is crowded with people enjoying craft beers. Save for the seasonal holiday decor and items, the scene is more or less like the one that plays out every Saturday afternoon. In the freezer section, however, something is off. There is a young man, maybe late 20s, tall and thin, shuffling down the middle of the aisle. He slides the toe of his right shoe in a semicircle and then brings his left foot forward to meet it. He pauses, then repeats the sequence. At a glance, you might ignore him, brush him off as a little touched. But upon closer observation, something organized and intentional reveals itself in his movements. His eyes are fixed on the floor, and it looks as if the man is tracing out invisible patterns, like he’s looking for something hidden in the lines of the concrete. As he shuffles down the aisle, his odd, smooth movements register as a kind of link
Dead White Zombies, Best Theatre Company in Dallas 2017
Dead White Zombies, Best Theatre Company in Dallas 2017 The symphony, the opera, the theater ... these are not venues people with short attention spans are likely to visit, however beautiful the work created inside them may be. That's why we're grateful for Dead White Zombies, a theater experience that's perfect for anyone with an insatiable curiosity and an inability to sit still. University of Texas at Dallas drama professor Thomas Riccio writes all the performances, which Dead White Zombies call "instigations." They're loosely scripted, interactive and staged in unconventional spaces. Last May, Holy Bone, a performance designed to encourage attendees to disconnect from technology and reconnect to their humanity, started out at Tacos Mariachi and sent attendees — broken into small groups — on an adventure through spaces in West Dallas. The plots are a bit hard to follow, but a Dead White Zombies experience is always stimulating and mind expanding.
The Weirdest Theatre Mind in Dallas
The Weirdest Theatre Mind in Dallas It's the Monday after closing night, and the director is cleaning up the last set pieces from his performance space. There are video-game consoles stacked in the bathroom, disconnected security cameras hanging from the ceiling, and a pair of blank-loaded pistols that, thankfully, he just a moment earlier removed from the coffee table and boxed up. There's a pounding at the door now and the director answers it, thinking it's his production manager coming back to retrieve something he forgot. It's not. It's seven Dallas police officers. Three of them have guns drawn. And they appear very confused that standing there in the doorway of a notorious West Dallas crack house is not the just-as-notorious drug dealer they were hoping to find but a confused-looking theater director, wondering what's happening. "Hi," the director says calmly. "What can I do for you?" "Y'all can go on in and wander around. The show will start soon," Lori McCarty, the producing director of T.N.B., says to the crowd as she opens the twin glass doors. The audience shuffles from the patio into the dining room. From there they move either into the den, where a white man in a ski mask stands in the corner working a small DJ table, or the kitchen, where a black woman is tidying up and tending to a Crock-Pot of greens. Every room has a projector streaming footage from the security cameras in the other three link