Saturday August 19th 2017

“Where Did We Sit On The Bus”

The Civil Rights movement is as important today as it was back in the 1960’s.  The title of one of the “Up Close & Personal” series of plays,  now on the stage at Victory Gardens, deals in a unique and different way with this subject. As we all were taught, during the days of yore, there were “Whites Only” and “Negroes Only” drinking fountains, public bathrooms and more. But what about the Asian and Hispanics? Where were they to go? “Where Did We Sit On The Bus”, written and performed by the amazingly talented Brian Quijada, under the skillful eye of director Chay Chew, tells us the story of a young Latino, who before getting married to a very “white” young lady, asks the question- “What do I tell our children? “Where did we sit on the bus”? A question that arose in his life, back in the third grade.

Quijada is powerful as an actor. He also plays the electric ukulele, harmonica and is able to work with the sounds of a DJ/rapper so he can tell us HIS story through what he has learned to live with and through. Brian grew up right here in the “greater Chicago” area, having resided in the Sunset Park “trailer homes (some people call them “manufactured homes”) in Glenview and then moving to an actual home in Highwood. Both of these communities were heavily composed of Hispanics, so in his early years, he was exposed to his own heritage, but since both areas were highly integrated, he was also exposed to the “white” lives that were different from his, and his family’s.

During the 90 minutes of story-telling (a beautiful job worthy of every and any award to be given for this type of show), Brian examines what his life was like in both areas where he grew up. His desire to enter the “theater”, which was not something his parents were pleased about, allowed him to reach even further into the other cultures around him. Living in Highwood, a very close community to Highland Park, allowed him to cross cultural lines and form friendships with the Jewish, far more affluent kids. He learned from them and was able to open his eyes to the “other world” around him.

Going into the arts was not as easy for him as for others. His parents were here for better education for their children. To watch their children have better educations, earn more and be financially stable- that is why they fought their way out of Mexico , making one sacrifice after another to come to the United States. As Brian notes, being a performing artist was “not in the cards”. Yet, this was the life and career path that was chosen for him. Based on how he tells the story, one might say, the career path was chosen for him (by a power far greater than his own choice). From an audience member’s viewpoint, I would have to say, that is correct. He belongs on the stage, telling us his stories, playing us his music, dancing and doing all the things he does so well. He is a treat to watch and deserves the previous Jeff Awards he received.

In his story, we learn about his early stages, his parents, his friends and what takes place in his life. The events that change the course of Brian Quijada’s life! They are comical, they are musical, they are heartwarming, but most of all , they are real! There are many times I base my review’s ratings on Jane’s reaction to a play. She loved this one! Jane was into everything and each detail of Brian’s story and remarked at the conclusion that he was “very talented”! She is correct. he is! The story ends with a close look at our present condition and how despite all the supposed progress America has made over the years, we are still not living up to the words (and promise) that is on the plaque of the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island. Check it out! It will make you think!

While most of what  we see and hear is Brian and the direction by Yew, it is of great import to give kudos to the lighting by Diane D. Fairchild.  There is no set, just a table with instruments and electronic devices, so the special lighting and the projections (Liviu Pasare) along with the stage management by Amanda J, Davis, make the 90 minute entertainment very special indeed. As stated earlier, this production is part of a special series “Up Close & Personal” which will continue at Victory Gardens, upstairs (Richard Christiansen Theater) thru June 4th running in rep with “A Little Bit Not Normal (Arlene Malinowski) and “St. Jude” (Luis Alfaro).

performances for this show are:

May 10th, 12th and 19th at 10:00 a.m.

May 20th, June 2nd and 3rd at 3 p.m.

May 11th, 13th, 24th, 26th, 28th, 31st and June 4th at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 each (open seating) with a special $40 package for all 3 shoes and can be purchased at the box office located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, by calling 773-871-3000 or online at www.VictoryGardens.org

For every ticket purchased, Victory Gardens will donate a ticket to a Chicago Public School student allowing them the opportunity to experience “Live theater”- a positive for all concerned.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Where Did We Sit On The Bus?”

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