During a year-long residency at the Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston, I collaborated with graduate and undergraduate art students to develop a theatre piece inspired by Edward Albee's 1960 play American Dream.
Our devising process included group and solo improvisations that leveraged consumer technologies and online software platforms to frame Albee's themes of consumerism, conformity, and social deviance in the immediate context of digitally-mediated communication. Performers were tasked with developing online personas to allow their interactions on the internet to inform the creative process.
With the intention of staging @merican deformity in front of a live audience, our plans were derailed in March of 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home order imposed on those living in Houston and many other cities throughout the world. As a result of our hybrid approach to devising -- a combination of in-person and remote collaborating -- we were more than prepared to migrate our project to an exclusively online format. As our process continued, we incorporated the context of a mysterious, unnamed illness to both explain the sudden isolation of our characters, and to lend our work even greater immediacy.
The result is a half-hour long video work that, I believe, manages to capture the darkly absurd and sardonic tone of Albee's play while incorporating a uniquely digital vernacular.
Jose Zelaya Romero
With the pandemic still underway, @merican deformity premiered as an online event on July 16th, 2020. The evening was moderated by Interim Director Melissa Noble for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and Chief Curator Steve Matijcio for the Blaffer Museum of Art. In the video above, I discuss the performance's developmental process as part of the talk that followed the screening.