By Sue Morgan
Where Did We Sit on the Bus? is an autobiographical one-person show written and originally performed by Brian Quijada. The outstanding production currently being performed at Marin Theatre seamlessly shifts the perspective from straight male to gay female with multi-talented Satya Chavez taking on the role of “Bee Quijada.”
The piece explores themes of identity, race, and belonging, through the lens of Quijada’s personal experiences growing up as the offspring of Central American immigrants in the United States.
…Do yourself a favor and treat yourself…
The title Where Did We Sit on the Bus? refers to the historical context of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, specifically the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956. The boycott was a response to the practice of forcing African Americans to sit at the back of public buses. The title alludes to the question of where people of different backgrounds and ethnicities “fit” in society and the struggles they face in navigating issues of race and identity.
Quijada’s story is not unlike that of many first- and second-generation immigrants who arrive in the United States with little but a dream of forging a safe and prosperous life. With a passion to perform and talent to fuel the fire, young Bee, a straight A student who works hard to make her parents proud, broaches the subject of wanting to dedicate her life to the stage, only to be met with fierce resistance by both parents who encourage her to pursue a “real” career, such as becoming a lawyer or a doctor.
Regardless of their disapproval, Bee tries out and wins a part in a school production only to be saddened that her parents do not attend the performance. This pattern continues throughout her school years, as Bee continues to hone her craft, culminating in a performance for fellow college drama students that wins a standing ovation.
What brings this familiar story to life is the mind-blowing talent of Satya Chavez, who in real life had full parental support for many artistic ambitions. At an early age, Satya was given lessons in voice and piano. Chavez believes that learning the fundamentals of music theory enabled achieving high levels as a multi-instrumentalist.
During the course of Where Did We Sit, Satya skillfully incorporates various forms of artistic expression, including rap, beatboxing, and live looping–creating a vibrant and captivating theatrical experience.
While narrating the story, Satya moves about the stage, playing various musical instruments including a guitar, a guitaron (the large and bulbous guitar used by mariachi players), a wooden flute, keyboards, various percussion instruments, and vocalizations, live looped to create a sometimes gorgeous auditory backdrop that masterfully propels the narrative forward.
Couple this with Chavez’ apparently genuine sense of ease as a performer and the entire production is mesmerizing. It is this talent that makes this performance a must see. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the gift of witnessing the birth of a star. Where Did We Sit on the Bus? is an astounding performance.
|Where Did We Sit on the Bus?
|Brian Quijada with additional compositions by Satya Chavez
|Marin Theatre Company (MTC)
|Through May 28th
|Marin Theatre Company
397 Miller Avenue
Mill Valley, CA
|Max in each category is 5/5
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