By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Brian Quijada (pronounced Key-Hada) describes his search for his own identity growing up as the son of two illegal Salvadoran immigrants in suburban Illinois in his multimedia solo show, “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?”
The show is all Quijada. The set is a plain white square stage adorned with a table and chair. The table, however, has laptop, microphone, Loop Station (more on that later) and a child-sized guitar not much bigger than a Barbie doll.
Quijada shares his life on stage. He starts with the time he proposed to his Austrian Swiss girlfriend and works backward. He goes…all the way back! He reenacts the minutiae of his birth, literally and figuratively. Spermatozoa meets egg. Boom. Heartbeat. Birth.
A birth described in dramatic, gory and hilarious detail.
Quijada beat-boxes through his tale, with an assist from the aforementioned Loop Station, which reproduces and repeats the sounds he makes with his voice, giving his dramatic life story a hip hop flare. He expresses significant moments in his life with rhythms, raps, songs, poems, spoken-word pieces and dance. The dude can move.
The title comes from a third grade classroom lecture on Rosa Parks during Black History Month. Quijada ponders, “If the blacks had to sit in the back of the bus, and the whites got to sit in the front of the bus…where did we (Latinx) sit on the bus?”
The author-performer recalls his teacher saying, “Latinos weren’t around then.” The answer flipped him out, leading him to erroneously believe Latinos did not have a part to play in any aspect of American History.
Side note: In Pittsburgh, we are, at least, taught about one Hispanic hero: Roberto Clemente, a Puerto Rican baseball player who died in a plane crash on his way to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Arriba! Arriba!
Quijada is a tour-de-force. He is energetic, buoyant and charismatic. He moves around the stage with aplomb and grace. It is a riveting performance.
“Where Did We Sit on the Bus?” is a tight 80 minutes with no intermission, expertly directed by Chay Yew.
There’s some excellent lighting and projection design by Diane D. Fairchild and Liviu Pasare. Quijada who wrote and starred in the show also did the sound design.
All art is political and Quijada is a Dreamer, born to illegal Salvadoran immigrants. He does discuss the hateful rhetoric around “the Wall.” It is a powerful and poignant moment, and it touched my Liberal Bleeding Heart.
If you own a MAGA hat, you might want to check it at the door. This show may not be for you.
It is, however, for everyone who has ever believed the American Dream is for anyone and everyone who pursues it.
“Where Did We Sit on the Bus?” plays until February 24 at the City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. For more information, click here.