The night starts jovial, and the air is light. Actors arrive one by one, wearing masks and filling the small table and kitchen area at the YPT office in Takoma, DC.
Silence is Violence: New Normal director Sandi Holloway arrives and after short greetings, everyone finds a place to sit inside the rehearsal space.
“Alright, let’s get started,” Holloway says and the air in the room almost instantly changes.
A sense of respect and seriousness for the actors’ process rushes into the room.
The cast begins trading lines, running a piece speaking to the gains, losses, dreams, and expectations people had before the pandemic and well into the future. Silence is Violence: New Normal MC Neko Ramos turns his ear toward the cast to listen and absorb the words and emotions. He gives the occasional nod as certain words pierce deeper than others.
They go over the piece multiple times, trying different arrangements here and there at Holloway’s direction before she looks around the room and says, “You all feel that? I think that’s the one.” They all agree and run through the scene one more time to lock in their feelings for the collective piece.
The cast is excused for a short time, leaving for the snacks and table set up in the YPT office near the air purifiers.
Holloway and Ramos begin tackling Ramos’ pieces for the performance, discussing the order he will speak and Ramos’ final written piece. He pulls out his phone and begins to read. Ramos’ passion gives off an almost palpable feeling – every word leaves you hanging on for more until he closes.
Holloway by now has closed her eyes to listen and once Ramos wraps, she looks at him and says, “That’s the middle.”
Silence is Violence: New Normal will be performed in-person and via simultaneous livestream at 7:30 pm April 17 at Prince George’s Community College: Center for Performing Arts.