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
Tags: Performance Studies Theatre Indigenous Performance Ritual and Shamanism Experimental Performance Directing Dramaturgy Social Robotics HUAS ARTS DRAM THEA VPAS

Professional Preparation

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

Research Areas

Areas of Specialization

Performance Studies, Media Performance and Installation; Indigenous Performance; Ritual and Shamanism; Acting, Stage Directing, Dramaturgy, and Theatre Theory, Literature and Criticism.


Huan Nuoyuan: Exorcism and Transformation in Miao Ritual Drama 2019 - Journal Article
Narrative of Place, Theatre Communications Group, Summer 2015 2015 - Publication
Dead White Zombies, Dallas TX 2014 - Journal Article
Dead White Zombies, Dallas TX Article, Theatre Forum, Vol. 45, 66-80, Summer 2014 2014 - Publication
Collective (Re)Creation Reclamation, Reaffirmation, and Redefinition Chapter in Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance, 195-209 Palgrave, 2013 2013 - Publication
Ethiopia and Its Double 2012 - Journal Article
Shadows in the Sun: Context, Process, and Performance in Ethiopia 2012 - Journal Article
Ethiopia and its Double Article, Theatre Forum, Vol. 41, 46-55, Summer 2012 2012 - Publication
Shadows in the Sun: Context, Process, and Performance in Ethiopia Essay, New Theatre Quarterly (NTQ), Vol. 28, Pt. 3, 272-295, August 2012 2012 - Publication
Robot: Ritual Oracle and Fetish In Transforming Culture in a Digital Age, Tartu University, Estonia, 391-396, 2010 2010 - Publication


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 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; Visiting Professor, University of Dar es Salaam, University of Pondicherry (India), University of Nairobi, and the Korean National University for the Arts; Jishou University (Hunan, China); and 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 recently designing/writing/directing performance immersions, T.N.B. (2013), kaRaoKe MoTeL (2014), DP92 (2015), Holy Bone (2017), About Face (video 2020), Blue Jelly (2020). He was an artist in residence at the Watermill Art Center (2016) and is collaborating with Sibyl Kempson on a series of performance rituals at the Whitney Museum. &

News Articles

Professor Travels to India, Nepal to Study Traditional Performance
Thomas Riccio, professor of performance and aesthetic studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, recently visited Nepal and India to deepen his research on indigenous performance. “My visit to India and Nepal showed that the peoples of the two nations have sustained their ancient traditional and indigenous performance expressions into this century,” said Riccio.Riccio said that some customs, however, are threatened with extinction due to globalization and environmental challenges. In Nepal and India, Riccio lectured at Tribuvan University, which is the national university in Nepal’s cities of Pokhara and Katmandu, where he also held a workshop for the Mandala Theatre.
Prof Presents Third Play in Original Drama Series
Arts & Humanities Professor Thomas Riccio’s newest play, Some People, will premiere at WaterTower Theatre’s “Out of the Loop” Festival on March 11. The cast is comprised almost exclusively of UT Dallas students and alumni. Some People is the third installment of the Simulations series dealing with life in and around the Dallas area. It will be performed three times at the WaterTower Theater and then transfer to the Project X Theatre for a three-weekend run. Some People takes a surrealistic journey into the subconscious of the house next door. In an ordinary Dallas suburb, a husband, wife and child one day find that they live in a house that has come to life. It begins when Frank, the father and a software systems analyst with an anger management issue, begins to hear the voice of the Narrator. The Narrator has come to synchronize the house in order to make all the family’s dreams come true. In order to do so, the world shifts into another dimension where time, space and reality become negotiable.
U.T. Dallas Expands Its Theatre Program With Appointment of Educator-Director Riccio
RICHARDSON, Texas (June 16, 2003) - The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) is expanding its theatre program for the 2003-04 academic year with the hiring of Thomas Riccio, who is widely recognized for his work on multicultural theatre projects as both an educator and a director.

Riccio is joining UTD as a professor of theatre, and starting in late August, he will begin working with other arts faculty at the university in the areas of theatre, music and dance to build a performance program that will be incorporated into the overall interdisciplinary goals of UTD's School of Arts and Humanities. He also will help develop new curriculum and will meet with Dallas area theatre leaders in an effort to bring unique cultural productions to the Metroplex.
Kartasi, a Collaborative ‘Phantasm,’ To Open At U. T. Dallas on Nov. 5
RICHARDSON, Texas (Oct. 5, 2004) —Kartasi, written and directed by Thomas Riccio, will open at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) University Theatre on Friday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m. The innovative and highly experimental show will run until Nov. 14, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. 

According to Riccio, professor of performance studies at UTD, Kartasi is the first of many, upcoming collaborations between UTD’s performance area and the university’s Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering.