The Sanctuaries | Washington, DC

Collective Artists

Kenneth Gonzales

 Photograph: Dejah Greene

Photograph: Dejah Greene

Artist Statement

For over two decades, I have forged a battle with the English language. It has been my family's closest survival tool, but it is also a reminder of my country's violent, colonial past, present and future, as well as of my own.

When I first migrated to this country, my English vocabulary was limited to movements of my head, nodding "yes" and shaking "no." By the third grade, my English had progressed to the point where teachers felt I no longer needed to be enrolled in ESL classes. By middle school, English had become my favorite subject. By the time I graduated high school, I had grown so distant from my native tongue and comfortable with the English language that I bore few, if any traces of Tagalog.

I believe that at the heart of any culture is the language through which people communicate. Writing, whether in the form of poetry, fiction, or plays, has become an opportunity to reclaim and revive a language that was forcefully taken away from me. The erasure of languages is the greatest threat to our growing global diversity. I write to ensure that my history, my family's history, and my country's history are preserved, expanded upon and shared.

A Mother's Teardrop

Teen Fiction

Synopsis: Lucas was 16 years old when he found out he was Undocumented. Prior to that discovery, he was your average high school boy simply trying to get a girlfriend, fit in, and get on his high school basketball team. This discovery would lead him to a path to uncover his past and his family’s history. Along the way, he meets the most peculiar characters that teach him some of life’s most important values. A Mother’s Teardrop is a story of love, family, and healing – important reminders especially living within a post-truth era.


After the third grade, I moved again, this time within the borders of Illinois. One would think that compared to 13,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean that the move 15 minutes away would be so much easier. It wasn’t. But it also wasn’t going to be the last goodbye I had to make. I moved after the fourth grade, and again after the 6th grade, and finally in the 8th grade.

With each move I grew resentful of my mother’s choices. It became a pattern in our relationship, but I started to think of her life decisions as bullets I was simply missing. As soon at one made contact, that would be the end of our relationship as we knew it.

It was just before I asked for my social security number, while perusing through my mom’s stuff (it was a habit I picked up as a child), that I ran across some wedding photos. I was shocked; my mom never really talked to me about my biological dad. I also did not care to ask about any information but seeing the picture made me curious. But after carefully examining them, I realized how recent these photographs were. The man in the picture was not of my biological father but a different man completely – one that looked 30 years her senior. I was not aware my mother dating again especially one that was serious enough to have her re-marry.

On the day I ran into these photos, I took them from their hiding place, and I waited for my mother to come home. Each day, at around 7:00pm, the soft rumbles coursing through our house would signal that my mom had arrived home. It was the sounds of our garage door opening.

The lights were turned off.

I was inside my mother’s office.

I heard her footsteps nearing.

When I heard the door click open, I turned the chair I was sitting in around alarming her so much she let out a loud shriek.

“Oh my god Lucas. Ano gingawa mo dian.” Oh my God Lucas! What’re you doing there?

I took the box of her wedding photos out from her dresser, and it was placed in front of me on her desk. Black embroidery tangled itself around the edges of the photo album, the soft casing reflecting in the light of her office.

I looked down at the black box, and so did she her face revealing a surprised look.

And I said, “You’ve got some explaining to do.”

“Paano mo no hanap yan?” How did you find that?

I knew and she knew that she couldn’t turn this on me so I said, “How did you get remarried without telling me?”

She paused before saying anything. There was something in how long she paused between her first breath and her first word that said, “He is old enough not to hide this from.”

Still I Rise

Director / Playwright Notes

This outline helps actors unpack the diverse stories and complexities of marginalized identities using Maya Angelou's beloved poem, "Still I Rise."




Even before I could speak,
I knew I was a writer.
Because writing begins in the imagination
and dies on the paper.

There is so much to be understood
against the emptiness
of blank pages,
in silences,
and the in-between.

I am only lucky
when I capture the small fragments
that mean anything at all.

The Sanctuaries