While some students might say theater is dead, professor of performance studies and artistic director for Theater & Performance Thomas Riccio says theater at UTD has evolved.
New to the Arts & Humanities faculty as of last September, Riccio said he does not use the word “theater” or “program” to describe what he wants to do with UTD’s Art & Performance department.
“This is a unique school, and that’s why I came here: to be a part of something innovative,” Riccio said. “That may include theater, which is certainly included in our offerings this year because it is necessary to understand the past, but at the core of what performance at UTD is about is exploration. Exploring where we are historically, technologically, politically, culturally.”
And the new fall program listings for theater and dance certainly warrants Riccio’s intended exploration.
BetaTest.2, the second annual festival produced by Riccio in conjunction with the Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering, includes experimental performance work from UTD students and will offer a fusion of performance art, video, digital art, audio, animation and other hybrid medium presentations.
“Bexchanged,” a docu-drama mixture of folk, classical and modern dance with video projections, animation, poetry and movement, investigates history, conflict and current state of affairs of the northern part of the Indian sub-continent.
“Kartasi,” a science fiction thriller written and directed by Riccio, combines live performance, digital art, video and animation.
Though Riccio has found a home in the arts and humanities department where intedisciplinarity is stressed, he has had experience with fusing together the arts before.
Riccio’s work at Chicago’s Organic Theater experimented with different types of performance including theatrical, musical and neon work. His studies of Native Alaskan and African indigenous performance have also helped him bring his innovative ideas to modern day culture.
“If we were in Africa, hunting, gathering and the spirit world would be part of our indigenous culture,” Riccio said. “(This) is similar to our world where virtual reality, popular culture, and mythology are part of our culture.”
Riccio says he is excited about working with the different arts departments within UTD on what he considers to be interdisciplinary art.
Kyle Kondas, a graduate student in Arts & Technology whose mock-umentary entitled Jabari: A Conspiracy Theory will appear in BetaTest.2, is excited about what Riccio’s new direction for Art & Performance brings to students on campus.
“It’s open to anyone who’s a student,” Kondas said. “You get to see some talent on campus even if that talent is not an art student. More types of work not seen at traditional art shows get to be seen.”