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Hip-Hop Infused Solo Show, WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS?, Kicks Off CPH’S 2021-2022 Season

Posted October 28, 2021 in Press Releases

CPH launches 106th consecutive season with a tour-de-force, high-energy theatrical experience that explores identity, race, culture, and what it means to be an immigrant in America.


Where Did We Sit On The Bus?

written by Brian Quijada

October 23 – November 14, 2021

Allen Theatre, Playhouse Square

(Cleveland, OH) Cleveland Play House catapults into its 106th consecutive season with the hip-hop solo show, Where Did We Sit On The Bus?, written by Brian Quijada. Directed by Matt Dickson, this high-energy, tour-de-force musical stars Satya Chávez and runs October 23 through November 14, 2021 in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square. Tickets can be purchased by calling 216.241.6000 or by visiting www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

During a third grade lesson on the Civil Rights movement and Rosa Parks, a Latina child raises her hand to ask, “Where did we sit on the bus?” Her teacher can’t answer the question. This autobiographical solo show follows that kid from her childhood to adulthood as she explores her family’s history, her identity as a first-generation American, and what the world will be like for her future children. Featuring live music that brings together Latin beats, hip-hop, and looping, Where Did We Sit on the Bus? is a high energy, tour-de-force theatrical experience that examines what it means to be Latinx in America.

The play was developed by Brian Quijada as a musical autobiography sharing his experience as a first-generation Salvadoran American growing up in Chicago, Illinois. Quijada’s works are heavily influenced by his upbringing, his immigrant parents, and his continued search for identity. Infused with the sounds of his childhood and youth, his plays incorporate Latin rhythms, hip-hop, R&B, and ‘70s and ‘80s rock. His plays also use non-traditional conventions like live-looped music, digital finger drumming, spoken word, clowning, and turntablism, alongside traditional forms to drive his narratives.

The music in Where Did We Sit on the Bus? was inspired by ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop and slam poetry. Musical “looping” is also a major element featured in the play. Looping is the repetition of small musical phrases that are edited together back-to-back.

Where Did We Sit On The Bus? originated as a collection of original poems and songs recounting Quijada’s experience as a Latinx teen enamored with hip-hop culture. Playwright Brian Quijada says, “the play is a reflection of the immigrant experience in the country.” He shares, the play “pay[s] homage to my parents and the foundation of what this country is built on, which is immigrants.”

The collection developed into a narrative of his life that the New York-based professional actor developed into a solo piece. The first iteration of the solo play was workshopped at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater in 2014. It received its world premiere production at Chicago’s Teatro Vista in 2016 directed by Chay Yew, receiving The Chicago Jeff Award for Outstanding Solo Performance as well as Outstanding Sound Design. The production transferred Off-Broadway to NYC’s Ensemble Studio Theatre where it received two Drama Desk nominations in the same categories.

The play has been subsequently presented at Boise Contemporary Theatre, City Theatre Pittsburgh, Geva Theatre Center, and the International Revolutions Festival in New Mexico with Quijada in the role he originated. In 2020, Quijada connected with director Matt Dickson to develop a virtual production of the play at Actors Theatre of Louisville (ATL) with another actor other than himself. The ATL production starred performer musician Satya Chávez as “Bee Quijada” – a female-identifying character – and received a Drama League Award nomination. In August of 2021, the trio collaborated on an outdoor version of the play at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.

Performer Satya Chávez says, “I was drawn to Bee’s story – I was drawn to her struggle – her family’s struggle. My father immigrated to this country in the ‘70s…it’s kind of a universal story for all of us first-generation immigrant kids.” She continues, “We did conceptual work in our virtual version [at ATL] and that transferred to our live version [in Colorado]. This show really left its mark on me in so many ways. It gave me the opportunity I’ve always wanted – to explore the full breadth of my artistry. To do all of the things that bring me joy.”

At the helm of this production at CPH, director Matt Dickson says “…what's exciting about this is, we're not bringing a show to Cleveland, we're making a show with Cleveland, which is important, despite the very vibrant history of [the play].” Dickson says, “I'm excited because we're returning to theatre…to be able to gather again publicly [and] celebrate that with this new musical vocabulary feels furiously exciting.”

Dickson explains that the overall design for the CPH production is intended to be reactive to the music, the storytelling, and every aspect of the play. Dickson leads the creative team, which includes scenic and costume design by Lex Liang (CPH’s Sweat, Shakespeare in Love, and The Crucible, among many others), lighting design by Michael Boll (CPH’s Into the Breeches!, Native Gardens, and A Christmas Story, among many others), and sound design by Curtis Craig (CPH’s Pipeline).

Brian Quijada also serves as music supervisor for the CPH production. In addition, Satya Chávez provides additional compositions through their live looping, while playing multiple instruments throughout the reimagined musical production.

CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley says, “I am thrilled to introduce audiences to the brave, innovative, and joyous storytelling in Where Did We Sit On The Bus?. Performer Satya Chávez is telling Brian Quijada’s coming-of-age tale through words, movement, and live looping – which means that she is creating the soundtrack for the play LIVE every night, right in front of your eyes and ears.” Kepley adds, “Listen for Satya singing four-part harmony with herself, and count how many instruments she plays as she builds each layer of the story and soundscape. Satya’s incredible artistic range is on full display. She is a masterful storyteller, musician, and sound magician.”

CPH is launching a new way to engage audiences with the 2021-2022 mainstage productions through Inside CPH programming. Audiences have the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes – virtually! – and join an “all-sides” conversation about the plays through short videos, intriguing articles, and social media posts that can be viewed anytime and anywhere. To learn more about Inside CPH, visit www.clevelandplayhouse.com/insideCPH.

Where Did We Sit On The Bus? is sponsored by DLR Group-Westlake Reed Leskosky as well as Martin and Sandra Kiely Kolb.

REVIEWS

“…as funny as it is poignant; expertly crafted, deftly poetic, and unabashedly authentic.” – Chicago Reader

“…an explosion of emotion, raw energy, and irresistible storytelling.” – Chicago Sun-Times

“…a playful mixture of internal rhyme and awkward truth...” – Theatre Mania

“Quijada is a natural storyteller. He is deeply inventive in his ways to conjure stories of his life through both delightful and withering observations of growing up Brown in America.” – DC Metro

“…your jaw drops realizing everything you’ve seen has been created by one person. It’s also impossible to overstate Quijada’s engaging determination to remain hopeful in the face of countervailing winds, his resolution to engender that hope in an audience and how that turns you into an acolyte.” – Pittsburgh Current

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets to Where Did We Sit On The Bus? range from $15 to $95. Student tickets are $15 (valid student ID required). Ohio Direction/EBT cardholders receive $5 admission to any performance (up to eight tickets). Tickets can be purchased by calling 216.241.6000 or by visiting www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

BIOGRAPHIES

SATYA CHÁVEZ (Bee Quijada) is a Chicago-based actor, composer, and musician thrilled to make their Cleveland Play House debut. As an actor, their credits include: Where Did We Sit On The Bus? (Colorado Springs FAC, Actors Theatre of Louisville); American Mariachi (Dallas Theater Center, South Coast Repertory, Arizona Theatre Company); Empanada (The Public SA); Undesirables (Eugene O’Neill Theater Center); The Happiest Song Plays Last (Curious Theatre); Othello, Twelfth Night (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Ghost Of Lote Bravo, Shoe (John F. Kennedy Center); Black Elk Speaks (Aurora Fox); and Jesus Christ Superstar (Arvada Center). As a composer, their work includes: an original score for the Drama League Award-nominated Where Did We Sit on the Bus? by Brian Quijada (Actors Theatre); Refuge, co-created with Andrew Rosendorf (NNPN Rolling-World-Premiere); Hamlet and Ophelia (The Artistic Home); and Life on Paper (Jackalope Theatre Company). satyachavez.com

MATT DICKSON (Director) is a NYC-based director with a focus on new work, classics, and musicals, as well as a teacher, a coach, and an actor. He spent the last year pioneering the medium of digital theatre-making. Recent credits: Everything is Wonderful by Chelsea Marcantel (Juilliard); Mike Pence Sex Dream by Dan Giles (Ensemble Studio Theatre); Regrettably, The Ghost That Was Previously Haunting Our Mansion Has Died created with Nadja Leonard-Hooper (NYU Stella Adler); We The People: America Rocks! (Theatreworks, US Tour); Selkie by Krista Knight (Dutch Kills); Lorraine Hansberry’s The Sign In Sidney Brustein's Window (NYU Grad); Machinal (Strasberg Institute); Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh (Drama League DirectorFest); Blood Wedding and The Cider House Rules (Rutgers Mason Gross); The Adventures Of Minami by Leah Nanako Winkler (Dramatists Guild); Kid Prince & Pablo by Brian Quijada (Ars Nova); Bizet’s Carmen (New York Opera Exchange); Sir by Jahna Ferron-Smith (Winner, Samuel French Festival); Oscar Hammerstein Festival with Adam Gwon (Bucks County Playhouse); Lanford Wilson’s Home Free! and Michael John Garcés’ audiovideo (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Upcoming: Macbeth (NYU). As an actor, he has appeared on Broadway in War Horse and The Coast Of Utopia (Lincoln Center Theater); and most recently Off-Broadway in Nicky Silver’s Too Much Sun (Vineyard Theatre). He is a 2021-2022 recipient of the Drama League Next Stage Residency, a 2017 Drama League Fellow, a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow (Manhattan Theatre Club), and member of Ensemble Studio Theatre. He is currently an adjunct professor at NYU teaching, “Theatre-Making in the Digital Age.” B.F.A. from Boston University. mattjdickson.com

BRIAN QUIJADA (Playwright & Music Supervisor) is actor, playwright, composer, and Artistic Director of The Wild Wind Performance Lab for New Play Development. Quijada has spent most of his career acting in Off-Broadway and regional theaters, including The Public Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, Playwright’s Realm, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Victory Gardens, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. As a playwright/composer, his plays and musicals have been developed at Pittsburgh CLO’s Spark Festival, Victory Garden’s Ignition Festival, Ars Nova’s Ant Fest, New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Festival, The Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage, and The O’Neill’s National Musical Theatre Conference. He has composed music for theatre and TV, including Nick Jr’s “The Always Song,” which celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021. Commissioning institutions include Woolly Mammoth, Oregon Shakespeare, 1st Stage, A.R.T., and The Kennedy Center. He is a proud member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre in NYC.

LEX LIANG (Scenic & Costume Designer) returns to CPH having previously designed Shakespeare in Love (Scenic & Costume Design), The Crucible (Costume Design), The Little Foxes (Scenic & Costume Design), and several others. Other Regional: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alliance Theatre, Asolo Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Dallas Theatre Center, Denver Center, Geva Theatre, The Guthrie, La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, Pasadena Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Syracuse Stage, Woolly Mammoth, and others. NYC/Off-Broadway: 50+ productions, including Antigone, Nine Circles, and The Bacchae. Liang is the founder and owner of LDC Design Associates, an experiential event design and production company in NYC. Recent projects include Ubuntu Pathways: Fight For Good, Operation Smile’s 35th Anniversary Gala, The Tony Awards Gala, and BCBG’s 30 Year Retrospective, NYFW 2019. Member, United Scenic Artists-829. LexLiang.com

MICHAEL BOLL (Lighting Designer) is lighting supervisor at Cleveland Play House where his credits include: Native Gardens; An Iliad; The Invisible Hand; These Mortal Hosts; The Good Peaches; A Christmas Story; The Little Foxes; Venus in Fur; Every Good Boy Deserves Favor; In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; and Stew and the Negro Problem. CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program credits include: Macbeth, Metamorphoses, Identity Theft, The Winter's Tale, In Arabia We'd All Be Kings, An Orchard, Cloud 9, and Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Cleveland lighting design work includes Cleveland Public Theatre, Cain Park, Cleveland Museum of Art, Karamu House, Dobama Theatre and Beck Center for the Arts. Off-Broadway/NYC Theatre: The Moliere Cycle (Classic Stage), Songs for a New World (George Street), Dog Sees God (SoHo Playhouse), The Moonlight Room (Associate Lighting Designer; Beckett Theatre), NY Fringe Festival, La MaMa E.T.C., HERE Arts, and Yale Cabaret.

CURTIS CRAIG (Sound Designer) returns to Cleveland Play House where he served as sound designer for Pipeline. Recent work: Indecent at the Denver Center, world premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Mud Row at People’s Light & Theatre Company, world premiere of The Great Leap, Denver Center Theatre Company, The Bacchae with Classical Theatre of Harlem, and How to Catch Creation at Baltimore Center Stage and the Philadelphia Theatre Company. Actors Theatre of Louisville, Detroit Public Theater, Clarence Brown Theatre, Seattle Rep, Chautauqua Theater Company, Apollo Theater, New York Fringe Festival, and Dallas Theater Center. In 2017, his sound design and composition from the Denver Center production of All The Way was awarded the Silver Medal in Sound Design at the World Stage Design exposition in Taipei, Taiwan. He previously won the Gold Medal in Sound Design for Pentecost in 2009 in Seoul, South Korea. curtiscraig.com

JOHN GODBOUT (Stage Manager) was Cleveland Play House's resident stage manager from 2001 to 2008 and returned to CPH in the fall of 2011. He has also stage managed at North Shore Music Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre, The Weston Playhouse, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Northern Stage, Seaside Music Theatre, and Porthouse Theatre.

KYRA BUTTON (Assistant Stage Manager) has worked at Cleveland Play House previously on Middletown, A Christmas Story, Pipeline, Into the Breeches!, An Iliad, Tiny Houses, The Seagull, Shakespeare in Love, Macbeth, The Invisible Hand, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, just to name a few. Her previous credits also include Baby Camp (Leviathan Labs), The Heart’s Impatience (Shufflefoot Theatre Company), Resistance (Semicolon Theatre), A Streetcar Named Desire (St. Ann’s Warehouse), Medea and Dreamgirls (Red House Arts Center), This Day Forward (Vineyard Theatre), and The Intergenerational Project (Rose Bruford, London). She is overjoyed to be continuing her work with CPH and is proud to hold a BFA in Stage Management from Syracuse University’s Department of Drama.

MICHELLE ELYSE LEVINSON (Stage Manager) is originally from Los Angeles and has most recently served as stage manager for the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program 2021 production of Twelfth Night. Other credits include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Saint Joan; and Shakespeare in Love at Ohio Shakespeare Festival; Tovic Tomte and the Trolls at Talespinner Children’s Theatre; Station Hope 2018 at Cleveland Public Theater; 9 to 5; Ain’t Misbehavin’; and Newsies at Porthouse Theater (stage management intern). They graduated from the theater program at Baldwin Wallace University in the class of 2020.

LAURA KEPLEY (Artistic Director) became Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House in 2013 and has directed numerous CPH mainstage productions including Every Brilliant Thing; Into the Breeches!; Tiny Houses (world premiere, also at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park); Sweat; The Diary of Anne Frank; Shakespeare in Love; The Crucible; Steel Magnolias; The Good Peaches (world premiere); Fairfield (world premiere); How I Learned to Drive (also at Syracuse Stage); The Little Foxes; Venus in Fur; Good People (also at Syracuse Stage); A Carol for Cleveland (world premiere); In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; My Name is Asher Lev and CPH readings of Roe Green Award-winning plays Tiny Houses; The Chinese Lady; Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976; Marjorie Prime and Daphne’s Dive. She joined CPH in 2010, having arrived from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, where she was Resident Director and Artistic Associate for four seasons and Interim Director of the Brown/Trinity Rep M.F.A. in Directing Program for one. She has also directed for The Alliance Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Chautauqua Theater Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others. A native Ohioan, Kepley received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her Master of Fine Arts from Brown University/Trinity Rep. She is a Drama League Fellow and a recipient of the 2009-2011 National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Career Development Program for Directors.

COLLETTE A. LAISURE (Managing Director) joined the Cleveland Play House leadership on February 15, 2021, partnering with Board Chair Anne Marie Warren and Artistic Director Laura Kepley to support the Board and staff with overall business operations. Previously, Laisure served as Vice President and Executive Director of the PNC Fairfax Connection from 2012 to 2017, spearheading the strategic and operational direction of the thriving community resource center located in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood. Collette served as the President and Executive Director of The Presidents’ Council and has held board leadership roles at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Foundation, Cleveland Public Theatre, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation and Karamu House. Laisure also served as Director of The City of Cleveland’s Office of Equal Opportunity, where she managed a budget of $1 million and was responsible for administering and monitoring compliance with the Female- and Minority-Owned Business Enterprise program. She is a member of Leadership Cleveland’s Class of 2008, and a 2008 Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note.

PAMELA DIPASQUALE (Director of Education and Artistic Strategies) joined the CPH family in 2010 as the Director of Education. Under her guidance, the education department serves more than 30,000 children and adults annually with a suite of eleven innovative education programs and partners with more than 130 local, regional and national organizations including the US Department of Education. DiPasquale came to Cleveland from the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville, KY, where she served as Education Director. In Kentucky, she led award-winning educational outreach programs and worked in partnership with the National and State Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Program to provide a theatre-in-education program for incarcerated youth, and successfully developed a training institute for rural theatre artists. In her career, DiPasquale has developed the artistic and educational vision of Children’s Theatre of Maine, where she served as Artistic Director; founded City Shakespeare, a theatre company that provides free programming for low-income urban children and teens; served as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Education at Bellarmine University in Louisville; and presented at both state and national conferences on topics related to theatre education and community building. DiPasquale received her undergraduate degree from Boston College and her MA from Emerson College in Boston.

ABOUT CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE

CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America's first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, CPH has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate, and entertain diverse audiences across Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. CPH has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 productions. Today, Cleveland Play House celebrates the beginning of its second century of service while performing in three state-of-the art venues at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland Play House is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Cleveland Play House is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. To learn more, visit: www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

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