COVID-19 Anniversary: Art and Remembrance

Diana Burbano, literary director of Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, discusses the Santa Ana-based group’s ”COVID Monologues” project.
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

What’s the premise behind the project?
I noticed early on in the pandemic that we never really saw much about the deaths in the media. Visibility is important, and putting faces and names to the numbers. So I decided to do what I do best and organize playwrights and ask people to send in monologues honoring people who died from COVID-19. And I got a great response from around the country and even from other countries. We had actors volunteer their time to perform the monologues on video as well. They’re about three to 10 minutes long and people from all walks of life.

The first video was your own monologue about Noé Yoacoatl Montoya. Can you tell us about him?
I wasn’t planning to do one myself, but when Noé died, I couldn’t help it. I had to contribute. I didn’t know him personally, but he was a legend. He was a master of indigenous music at El Teatro Campesino (in Northern California). He was somebody who gave of himself. His gift was his music, and he shared it and brought comfort to people. He was not a rich person, but he did what he could to help people. He passed away on Thanksgiving, and he was just 66.

Why do you believe this project is so important?
The collaboration between a writer and actor, there’s a real magic to it. And there’s something about a monologue when someone is talking directly to you; it helps people connect and listen to the story. It’s important to me that we not pass people by. The numbers are getting so huge, but every number is an individual, and the least we can do is remember them.

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