“Blessing” has its origins in the words for “blood” and “bend”. Never have the connections among these three been more obvious than in Delejos (from afar), a solo performance currentlylive-streaming on Zoom. Storyteller/comedian/musician Julie Piñero uses her many artistic talents to share with us her experiences of love and loss during her relationship with VR video game designer Jose Zambrano.
Zambrano — whose family had immigrated from Venezuela in search of a more stable life — died at the age of 26 after becoming a victim of a random act of violence (https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-game-developer-dies-after-brooklyn-attack-20191122-pjkampeqabczphrdhnngmy2vtq-story.html). So completely does Piñero describe his energy and creative spirit that he is the more present of the two. Through the shared screen of producer Caitlin Stone, who acts as a stage manager, we are treated to Zambrano’s illustrations, photos and text messages which bolster Piñero’s recounting of their adventures: his term for their dates.
While most of the focus is on her romance, we are also given enough of Piñero’s backstory to appreciate how that relationship opened her to new possibilities. There are adjunct stories which touch on the feelings of distance produced by language and cultural gaps that are core to the couple’s experience as Latinx. At several intervals you will be asked to put on your “VR headset” which is simply closing your eyes to better “see” the scene as painted by Piñero. To get the most from this Zoom-based live-stream, it is recommended that you use speaker view in full screen mode and pop in your headphones.
At the beginning of her piece, Piñero is addressing Zambrano in his medically induced coma before shifting to acknowledge us. She often accompanies herself on the guitar and sometimes employs flashcards to help we monolinguals put her select Spanish vocabulary into full context. The background of the frame is dominated by Zambrano’s drum set, the significance of which is revealed in the final chapter. Her changes of scene are accomplished by simply moving to a different chair or switching on another light. For all her talk of the power of flow, it is unfortunate that Piñero breaks the spell she has cast by taking a five minute intermission. It’s a jarring disconnection that could be avoided by working with a compassionate and seasoned editor to trim the runtime by helping her sort through which elements truly serve the story.
Delejos (from afar) is such a heartfelt ode to an extraordinary person that you too will feel his loss but also benefit from exposure to his ethos. This immersive work is in a limited weekly run until May 1. 7PM performances are currently schedule for April 1, 11, 17 and 22. The show is free of charge but tickets are limited. Reservations can be made at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/delejos-from-afar-tickets-131417508305 with donations accepted through Venmo.