UM Film Student Channels Painful Memories Into Powerful Theater

In 2011, while training for a marathon on the University of Massachusetts Lowell's Riverwalk, Bianca Ramirez was brutally assaulted. The rest of her morning is a hazy memory.

"It was so abrupt," she recalls. "Being attacked came out of nowhere. I literally thought I died, waking up in bushes not know where I was, who I was, or what happened to me." Afterwards, she says, "I feared everything and everyone. Aside from that, I couldn't jog or get on treadmill. Everything led me back to those thoughts [of the assault]."

It took about two months after the attack for Ramirez, who is currently getting her master's in film production at the University of Miami, to channel her emotions into creativity. Writing became her therapy and, as she calls it, her oxygen. She battled traumatic, sleepless nights by penning 60 pages before she realized it; they included her thoughts on the assault, but much more.

This flurry of inspiration became the basis for an autobiography, B Beyond Words, that will be released in September, and a companion piece for the stage, titled I Survived, which will have its regional premiere on the Bill Cosford Cinema stage this weekend. A multifaceted performer, Ramirez has channeled all of her artistic talents into this experimental theater piece, including music, dance, and dramatic acting.

The story begins with the assault, flashes back on the obstacles she had to overcome throughout her childhood and young adult life, and eventually returns to that morning in Massachusetts, on a note of survival. A double-digit ensemble, many of whom starred in the production's premiere in Massachusetts, will join her.

"I thought, how can I find a connection to other human beings with my life story?" she says. "I'm a Latina, and love my culture, but most of us are not avid readers, so you can't connect to them through books. You have to connect dynamically, because they're so dynamic. It was a process that took a lot of hard work, and it was challenging to convey my entire life into an hour-long play."

It'll be another challenge to stage a play with so many unique elements on a small cinema stage fit for the occasional lecture and not much else. At the time of this writing, she's still figuring out issues with props, lighting, and scene transitions. But if there's anything Ramirez is used to, it's overcoming the adversities in front of her, and connecting with others through universal hardship.

"I'm using my life story to inspire others to be the difference and to make the difference. We're all survivors of anything and everything."

I Survived runs at the Bill Cosford Cinema, located at 1111 Memorial Drive in Coral Gables, at 7 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets vary from $15 to $65. Visit

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John Thomason