We were thrilled to partner this fall with the BIPOC Critics Lab, a new and necessary mechanism for expanding representation in arts journalism developed and led by cultural critic Jose Solís and hosted by The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Future critic Angela Ramos wrote about New Georges’ tiny plays for the time of no plays, which have been landing in our audience’s inboxes via e-blast since March 18, the first week of the lockdown. Since she hadn’t read any of the tiny plays until this assignment, her affecting response—a parallel perspective on each moment–lets us see them in a whole new light. We’re truly excited to publish her essay here. Enjoy!
time traveling through the tiny plays: a reflection by angela ramos
This March 18 was the sunniest March 18 I had ever seen. I found myself curled up in a blanket, listening to Coldplay. Dreaming about the smell of my mom’s fried sweet plantains and salty cheese, while the wailing of restless sirens, and hopeless numbers, appeared on the screen.2,382. It was my 23rd birthday. My mother called from Colombia, asked if staying in New York was a good idea. I felt desperate in a foreign land. March, now feels like a fever dream, and how I wish the tiny plays would have found me back then to comfort me.
Reading them is reading pages of my own journal. A wishlist of stories I would have loved to have with me as I survived the past few months.
On the same day, the tiny plays series started with Amy Gijsbers van Wijk WITHIN THE TRAPPING I FEEL TRAPPED. How I love synchronicity. Gijsbers van Wijk’s play centered around the magic of the unsaid, conversations that needed no context. The tea-making evoked a silent mutual understanding between the two characters.
A picture of the way we choose to comfort each other.
My roommates, all immigrants like me, surprised me with a chocolate cake and sang happy birthday in hushed Spanish aware that home felt miles away. They understood I needed to enjoy this moment in silence, the first time in my life silence felt comforting.
The empty shelves and long lines outside the grocery store kept flooding my mind. I wished I was in the Manhattan streets where Tori Keenan-Zelt’s WEATHER WE’RE HAVING takes place. Except I was in Queens, so close to the New York Presbyterian Hospital that I could hear the humming freezer, the resting place of many New Yorkers who would never eat a piece of chocolate cake again.
April 2nd was the seventeenth day of quarantine and Molly Beach Murphy’s LET IT BE PERPETUAL, spoke to me in a special way. I was near the end of my last year of college in a world where everything was on pause. I was confused. What was I supposed to do after graduation?
“So what in the hell are you?” says YOU, one of Murphy’s characters.
“Well, I’ve been trying to dig deep and meet the moment and learn what I am (…)” replies ME.
As I read ME’s line months later, I thought about the times when overwhelming anxiety found me. Now, I realize the world is crumbling and there is no one else I should pretend to be.
I should meet myself here in the now.
April 8th, New York City: 150,000 cases.
Caridad Svich releases BLOSSOM, a breath of fresh air.
October 27th, New York City: 528 cases.
I am still here but we keep holding our breath. Svich’s words still feel like fresh air.
BLOSSOM is a glimpse of hope, a way of saying thank you for the things we took for granted. An exercise of gratitude. Clare’s question “Aren’t you happy? We are alive. We’re still alive. How can you not be happy about that?” left me spinning in the face of all the loss. Every day has felt miraculous ever since it all started.
From my journal, “a love letter to the present,” dated April 29:
“We sit down by the miracles we have left, we realize being alive is enough, we long for more, but this time around we don’t stop dancing.”
That day, THIS MOMENT by Alexis Roblan was released. Reminding me that tomorrow is not a promise but that living in this moment is enough.
How often do we forget that? Even when we write love letters to the present.
This constant introspection had become unbearable by May 14. I had become agoraphobic, incapable of stepping out of my creaky house in Flushing. Perhaps reading Amina Henry’s a walk in the spring would have shown me how, despite everything, there was so much beauty to witness.
“People are still gardening, sweating, that sort of thing. The other day I went jogging and saw so many eyes…Eyes are beautiful, you know?”
After reading this I went on a jog to take it all in. Sometimes we need a reminder.
Perhaps If I had read Liz Appel’s THE WORLD BY HERE AND NOW on May 4, I would have held onto the idea the world I knew was still out there.
And that the world we could create was better than we imagined.
I spent Memorial Day through July daydreaming in the midst of the summer heat. I was 23 and craving change. The unrest, the hostility against people I loved. A magnified picture of the things we continuously ignored.
An entry from my journal, “our brave new world,” dated June 25: “We grew tired of the bonding, the wounds on someone else’s wrists. We waited for the sun, for the bluejays to return (…)Tired of the waiting, a burning desire to live, not just survive.”
Crystal Skillman’s THE REBEL, also spoke to no longer being able to dream of a world without working for it, and how powerfully this message is conveyed. “We are ready to fight for those whose fear has turned to madness” and “tonight as we sleep we will dream this place into being.”
I recall the days I wished I could dream this place into being better. Summer days like this July 26 when the sky opened, and I went outside again. I was slowly embracing what this new time could be, and took the time and enjoyed sunsets and told myself “the sun still works,” words uttered by a character in COLLATERAL DAMAGE by Sonya Sobieski.
August 30, the sun still worked and I had a newfound love for the ordinary, which LOSE. LOST. LOSS by Deneen Reynolds-Knott, mirrored in a heartwarming way.
“These days, I adore who I don’t know. Who I merely pass. Getting groceries, emptying the laundromat’s dryer, strolling by the park, and I believe in those moments they love me too.”
The airful embrace at the end, distanced yet meaningful.
In my journal, that day I wrote: “The ‘I love you’s’ you saved between your teeth perhaps won’t be wasted, we should go out to the world and fall in love with it.” This melancholy soon turned into new embraces.
By September 13, UNCLASSIFIED SUPPORT GROUP by Kristen Palmer was out in the universe, while the growing pains of adult life found me. Once again I had to choose whether to leave the United States or stay. A constant feeling of unsettledness and wondering what I would become, how could I have arrived at this moment, feeling 16 again, lost.
B: What do you long for?
A: A time when dad was alive(…) My friends were easy to find and the air was dense. I heard Joni Mitchell for the first time (…) We listened to it all over again (…)When I listen to it now I’m always back there grateful to be free.
Today, I am A. Longing to feel free, but grounded. Reading Palmer’s words, I realize I am not the same person I was in March. I had the privilege to indulge in existentialism and rediscover life.
I didn’t have these tiny plays during my time of transformation. I have them today and see myself more clearly. I can see my journey and glances of what life has been like for others. I know they were not written for me, but these playwrights’ truths illuminated me.
Now wherever I go I know:
That the sun still works,
That I love the people I don’t know,
That there is love in a distanced hug,
And that there’s a story out there to make me feel less alone
A breath of fresh air
To keep dreaming this place into being.
Angela Ramos is a Colombian playwright/artist/critic/hair icon. She loves plátanos, arepas and lives in NYC.
Want to retrace Angela’s experience? Find (the collected) tiny plays here and scrollllll all the way down!