How many times have you had to answer some variation of the question, “Where would you go if you could go back in time?”. The answer to that question ranges wildly depending on who you are, from a concrete answer to the awkward but firm response of not wanting to suffer further, deeper oppression than the one already present. Timestorm reminded me of an answer that is particular to marginalized communities: to witness and remember history that has been erased and forgotten.
When twelve-year-old twins Alexa and Beni Ventura are sucked into an interdimensional portal, they meet a distant cousin who presents them with an incredible mission: travel through time to uncover hidden moments from their culture’s past. Along the way, they meet people from Africa, Europe, and the Americas who have left their mark on Puerto Rican heritage…only their names aren’t found in history books.
It’s made clear from the start that the twins’ mission is to observe, not change, history. This is an especially important detail for marginalized people, whose histories have already been irrevocably transformed by colonization and oppression. In this Puerto Rican family’s case, that means they also can’t make Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017, not have happened. Fundamentally, Dania Ramos’ Timestorm is audio for underrepresented audiences and their histories, which is underscored by the protagonists’ ongoing struggles with bullying at school or dealing with the emotional effect of Hurricane Maria. For instance, the moment when their mother, Clara, tries to convince her parents to leave the island or go to a shelter is a familiar conversation to me and many others, and one that triggers that deep-seated need to believe that something can be changed in order to protect the ones you love.
Alexa and Benito, voiced by Leilany Figueroa and Claudio Venancio, are believably twelve, who thankfully don’t rely on “the sports twin and the books twin” distinction. Instead, they argue, and stand up for each other, and shine with their own strengths and their growth. Their dialogue, and that of the people around them, occasionally comes across as somewhat unrealistic or wooden. However, when faced with a portal that sucks you into another dimension, it’s up the air what your priorities are going to be in the moment; some suspension of disbelief must be allowed for conversations happening in impossible situations.
The message Timestorm sends about colonization cuts deep, but it’s woven in and doesn’t overshadow any other part of the production, including the smart sound design and original score by Michael Aquino. The soundscaping is not overly layered and crystal clear, making it great audio for those young audiences who may not have been exposed to audio-only storytelling much before. The theme song’s upbeat and raucous nature reminded me of some of my favorite TV Shows from the 90s, like Ghostwriter, or movies like Ghostbusters, and helps solidify that attitude of positive, adventurous children’s audio. That, plus the little quirks of world-building, such as time-traveling causing an intense tickling sensation, give the script its young-adult focused edge, something that can be hard to accomplish when grappling with such serious subjects as forgotten and erased history.
Best of all, Timestorm is empowering audio. The Ventura parents have a role here in connecting with adult listeners, and they’re expertly managed, from their anxieties to those “when I was your age” lectures we’ve had all memorized. Alexa and Benito are shown in their home, but also at school and in their community with friends, mentors, and enemies, creating a fuller picture than just sending them spinning off through time would. Timestorm’s strength in is in their characters, in learning about their relationships and their attitudes, and in that promised balance between the twenty-first century and whatever far-off time they’re exploring,
I am intrigued as to how the producers are going to handle what exactly the Ventura twins will witness, and how fictionalized these moments are going to be. Certainly some caution must be found — large chunks of history of people of color have been relegated to oral storytelling only, and overwritten by white colonizers in the books, making it difficult to find and parse reality from myth. The Cocotazo Media team has already shown, through their variety podcast Cocotazo Audio Theatre, that they are focused on creating audio that is impactful, real, and well-researched, even if it goes through some changes for modern consumption. Timestorm promises to continue being enjoyable as well as a considered look into how the past has affected the present.
You can listen to Timestorm wherever you listen to podcasts, or on their website. You can support Cocotazo Media through buying music albums or merch, or using their one-time donation button. You can also follow them on Twitter.
If you would like to support Puerto Rico as they continue to recover from the effects of Hurricane Maria and lack of governmental support, Cocotazo has links to different charities doing good work. You can also donate to UNIDOS, from the Hispanic Federation, which serves immediate and long-term needs of communities on the island in need of disaster relief and recovery.