In the summer of 2018, I got to go to DC go work on a theatre festival for solo performances (I was playing bass in a mostly-one-person show called Brahman/i about an intersex Indian-American stand-up comedian). That's where I met Brian Quijada, an actor who was also there to perform his mostly-autobiographical musical show Where Did We Sit On The Bus? The title comes from a formative moment in Quijada's childhood, when he first learned the (admittedly white-washed) story of Rosa Parks. As the child of El Salvadorian immigrants, he wondered where his own people sat on the segregated buses — and, perhaps unsurprisingly, his teacher doesn't have a good answer. It was a truly delightful show — fun, funny, engaging, and topical, as Quijada live-looped beatboxing, ukulele, and his own voice to weave together his family's personal story with the larger story of Latino-Americans struggling to find a place in an American history that is often binary to the point of erasure.
Quijada wrote and performed in the original award-winning production of Where Did We Sit On The Bus? But Actors Theatre of Louisville recently took the script and turned into a new COVID-friendly digital performance, that is wholly unique but still similarly delightful. Here's how they describe their digital video production, directed by Matt Dickson and starring Satya Chávez:
During a lesson on Rosa Parks, a Latinx kid begins searching for her own people's place in American history. Performed by a dynamic actress/singer/musician, and infused with a mix of rap, hip-hop, and spoken word, this energetic exploration delves into the experience of growing up in an immigrant family and finding identity in making art.
You can stream the show through May 31 via Actors Theatre of Louisville, and it's a wonderful 80 minutes of music and storytelling that offers a refreshing look at American identity. It's pay-what-you-can with a minimum of $15, although I personally think it's worth a lot more than that. Highly recommended if you're looking for something fresh and hopeful that still engages with difficult issues about modern America.
Where Did We Sit On The Bus? [Brian Quijada / Actors Theatre of Lousville]