Model Killer – excerpt from Work in Progress , Automata D+R Residency

Model Killer - excerpt from Work in Progress ,  Automata D+R Residency

Model Killer Workshop Performance
Automata D+R Residency

(This is a workshop performance using puppets, script, and sets-in-progress, with no theatrical lighting or music.)

Conceived, Designed, Performed by Marsian DeLellis

“Model Killer: Giant Crimes + Tiny Cover-Ups” is a solo immersive puppetry and performing object installation centered on a disgruntled dollhouse maker turned investigator. Vivian Nutt builds dioramas of unsolved murders, only for it to be revealed that she is in fact, a serial killer.
In the fully presented performance, I will guide groups of ten to fifteen participants through an epic series of rooms filled with dollhouses, miniature sets, and dioramas. I will activate these familiar domestic zones to deactivate romantic notions of innocence and the happy endings pushed by fairy tales. In these intimate spaces, I will invite viewers to reconsider “female” serial killers, the historically feminine craft of miniatures, and the sensationalism of crime.

The narrative centers on a small town where nothing is as it seems. Ripton Falls is a present day dystopia marred by growing violence. During the unveiling gala for the Institute of Crime’s Murderabilia Wing, the chief curator discovers a mysterious package. A threatening letter incites a series of flashbacks that illustrate how Vivian, a middle-aged woman in plastic comfort footwear and a fanny pack, transforms herself from lonely crafter to one of the most notorious killers of our time.

“Model Killer” slays traditional notions of puppetry and audience engagement. I‘m attacking the idea of models simply as scaled-down representations of physical space, and instead, pushing them as metaphoric sites to examine abstract concepts unencumbered by expansive scope and emotional weight:

How is our perception of gender colored through aggression’s lens?
Can injecting idealized settings of dollhouses with the macabre, expose the fraud of domestic tranquility?
Are Vivian’s attempts to construct a world that fits her model of justice by eliminating problematic people out-of-scale with their transgressions?
In “Model Killer”, these are a few of the questions I am taking a stab at.


Marsian De Lellis is an LA-based interdisciplinary artist whose work investigates embodiment, desire, contemporary forms of animism, and neurodivergence. They make solo puppet and object-based performances and installations that memorialize obsessional lives.

Growing up, queer in 1980s New England, they experienced an intense sense of otherness and a preoccupation with the nuclear arms race, alien abduction-lore, and the AIDS epidemic. In the ‘90s, they organized rallies in Massachusetts, which led to the nation’s first anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ public school students.

De Lellis earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA at CalArts. They currently make solo puppet and object-based performances and installations that champion the stories of unconventional people whose private manias become public fodder for tabloids and reality television. Melding these real or imagined lives with fragments from their lived experiences becomes a means to channel personal struggles into comprehensible form.

Their work memorializing obsessional lives has been awarded funding from The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Center Theatre Group, The Jim Henson Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, The Durfee Foundation, and UNIMA-USA. The objects and performances they generate occupy a precarious border between beauty and terror pushing them to examine the fringes of our shared world.