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'Not Working' musical brings three theater companies together

Not Working actress Annabelle Ramos .jpeg
Asian Story Theatre
Annabelle Ramos plays Anqa and composed two songs for the new musical "Not Working."

Asian Story Theatre is partnering with Teatro Mascara Magica and San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre to present a new musical called "Not Working: A New Musical for a Changed World" in three intimate theater spaces starting Oct. 28.

"Not Working" grew out of a conversation among the artistic directors of three different theater companies at the onset of COVID-19 as all were facing the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Using the 1970s musical revue "Working," inspired by Studs Terkel's book, the companies wanted to create a show that addressed how people were impacted by the pandemic. Unlike "Working," the companies wanted to create a single story and not a revue show.

Not Working.jpg
Asian Story Theatre
Ronnie Williams is one of the ensemble cast of "Not Working."

"Because we thought that collectively there's some value to providing a perspective that integrates the experiences in ways that we all share," said Kent Brisby, co-founder of Asian Story Theatre. "What happened is each of the companies reached out to artists or composers or writers and asked about stories, particularly stories that were unique or particular to their communities, their experiences with COVID, their reactions to it, the consequences of COVID, and use that as a basis for stories, narratives, and songs that were developed."

Annabelle Ramos plays Anqa, a young American-born woman who returns to America for the first time after her parents were deported 12 years prior. Upon Anqa’s return, the pandemic hits.

Ramos not only got to tap into her acting skills but also had the opportunity to contribute as a composer and songwriter.

"It's not something that you get to incorporate much in theater," Ramos said. "A lot of the times it's ... the director telling the actor, 'do this, do that.' So getting to be involved in also creating what we're performing, it gives you a new sense of creative freedom that I think makes you more invested in the story and offers another piece of your soul for the audience to see. It's more personable, it's more relatable and hopefully that authenticity shines through."

Ramos composed two songs for the show including "American Dreamer". 

"American Dreamer" from NOT WORKING, performed by Belle Ramos

Asian Story Theatre wants to emphasize diversity and community with the production so after every performance there will be a short post-show forum, with different hosts focusing a community discussion on a theme from the production.

"Not Working" debuts Friday, Oct. 28, at the new El Salon Theatre in San Ysidro. Home of Teatro Mascara Magica. It moves to Diversionary Theatre for the following weekend, Nov. 4 through 6, and concludes at the Chula Vista Library lecture hall on Nov. 12 and 13.

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