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By Lina Romero
Delejos is a multimedia performance by Julie Piñeros which follows her journey during the hospitalization of her boyfriend, Jose, following severe injuries. I had the privilege of viewing virtually it last week, and interviewed Piñeros herself afterwards via email about her life leading up to and including the show.
She started writing what would eventually become Delejos the night she found out Jose was in the hospital. “I didn't know I was writing anything - instead I was totally overwhelmed and needed a place to process so I poured myself onto the page. I didn't stop writing until I finished the project, 9 months later.”
Very early on, she had a vision of what this project would look like. “I saw the format, the start and the end, knowing I would need to take a journey through writing it in order to heal. That vision has hardly changed, except for the fact that it's now on Zoom.”
About five months into writing, the pandemic hit, and all of the sudden everyone around her was grieving, too. “We were isolated from each other, collectively grieving loved ones and strangers lost to the virus, grieving the fact that we lost something we didn't know we could lose: our ability to be around each other.”
“It all felt like distance. Distance between our current reality and what we previously thought reality was, distance between ourselves and home, distance between ourselves and the ones we love. We were all starved for connection.”
And Julie thought Jose, a VR video game designer, hid the antidote in the blueprint for his work-in-progress "Delejos", where he sends players on a journey to connect to something they love from afar. “So, I decided I needed to write and direct it for Zoom and perform it to an audience that would tune in from afar."
Zoom was a challenge, but Julie was determined to make the show intimate, immersive, intriguing. And every day felt like a triumph because it was so exciting to play around with subverting those expectations. She'd ask herself questions like, "what does it feel like for my character to be in a tiny box in the corner? when do I love it? when do I hate it?" And the story grew and grew from there.
The final product is less akin to theatre and more of an immersive experience. “I deliver the story as if you're a friend I'm chatting with on Zoom, and then I start to thread music, stand-up, photos, video and VR to bring it to life,” Julie says. “Each element is introduced to support me on my journey, but also betrays me later on, so the elements have their own agendas, acting as characters in themselves.”
She and Jose were collaborating on comedy projects, VR projects before and starting a band together, so Julie wanted the format to keep those promises. Second, she felt the story was far too big to simply fit into one form.
She also believed there is a lot more emotional connection when a story has a score, and she knew she could do that live on her electric guitar. “I wanted to embody a different persona when I switch into my "stand up" self, so in that way the one-woman element has layers.”
Julie picked up the guitar at the tender age of 15. “I played in the Brooklyn band Boys Drool. I taught myself on a super elementary nylon string acoustic that my dad bought me. When I turned 18, he gave me the electric guitar he used to play as a teen in a Beatles cover band in Puerto Rico.” She plays and sings throughout Delejos.
When asked what advice she had for fellow actors in today’s world, Julie said, “It's funny because I consider myself an artist in many respects, but I don't feel like I'm acting in this piece. When talking about this show, I often refer to myself as "my character" to delineate between my early-grieving self and my current self... But that could be impostor syndrome kicking in, so maybe I should embrace actor.”
Her advice is based on a mantra Jose would often say: "your ego is not your amigo". “I only wrote this piece because I got out of my own way. Find flow whenever you can. It's always there for the taking, and your most brilliant insights will run like a faucet if you can connect.”
You can find Julie on all social medias at @shmoooolie. And be sure to keep an eye on www.delejos.net for updates about the show. She doesn’t know what's next, but she has a feeling it'll involve her dad's guitar.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.