To cope with the tragic 2019 death of her partner, 26-year-old VR video game designer José Zambrano, performer and multimedia producer Julie Piñero began exploring her own grief by tapping into themes like love, creativity, alternative universes and her own Latinidad.
By the end of the creative process, what Piñero had crafted was Delejos (From Afar), an immersive and theatrical one-woman show that incorporates storytelling, music and magic realism–all presented virtually through Zoom.
“I began what would end up being a process of healing,” Piñero, 29, told Remezcla during a recent interview. “I just started writing about my grief. It started in the hospital room when he was in a coma. I was writing about everything that was happening around him.”
Piñero’s idea was that she would share what she wrote with Zambrano when he woke up. Not only were they in a relationship, but they were also creative collaborators who worked together on music, video games and comedy.
“I was so enamored with how he saw the world,” Piñero said. “When he died, I thought creating something would keep good on those promises. I had this intense feeling of destruction, but also gratitude that I even had any time with him at all.”
Piñero took those emotions and began writing Delejos, which utilized an unfinished VR video game of the same name that Zambrano was working on at the time of his death. The game was based on Zambrano’s own forced immigration from Venezuela and around the experience of having to connect to his family and homeland from afar.
“I found myself in quarantine in the middle of an intense period of grief,” Piñero said. “I wanted to connect to him and his spirit and continue telling our story. His game kind of laid out a path for people to work through grief in a creative way where, at the end, they could find some form of connection.”
That connection has brought her and Zambrano together again in a way she would have never imagined. She hopes viewers that experience her show will also find a way to take all the pain, beauty, humor and joy she presents and use it to build an entire universe around someone they may have lost.
“With Delejos, I wrote every joke for [José],” she said. “I wrote every joke thinking about his laugh. We had so much energy moving forward to the future. I would hope that he’s proud of it. He had a hand in creating it, too.”
Purchase tickets through May 1 to see Delejos at delejos.net.