Cleveland Play House’s ‘Where Did We Sit On The Bus’ is pure magic




Be prepared to be dazzled...I mean really DAZZLED! Appearing on stage in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square is the innocuously titled “Where Did We Sit On The Bus?”.

Originally written and performed by Brian Quijada. This performance features Satya Chávez as Bee Quijada (a young gay Latino woman) who brings the role to life while adding amazing music and story telling skills that absolutely captivates.

Although the original production is Brian’s life, Satya makes it her own. The story centers around a young person growing up with Mexican parents who arrived in America as illegal immigrants. They go from living in a crowded mobile home to owning a modest house (with a real yard) in a neighborhood in Illinois that offered better education opportunities for their children.

Bee talks and sings about her birth and subsequent young childhood. Being bilingual she is taken from her primarily Latino classroom and put in with “the white kids class” that is populated mostly with Jewish kids who live in the more affluent section of town.

While she is in the third grade the subject of the Civil Rights Movement comes up. While studying Rosa Parks she asks her teacher, “If the blacks were forced to sit in the back of the bus and the whites were in the front of the bus, where did we (the Latinos) sit on the bus.” To which the teacher replied, “You were not there.” This sets Bee out on a journey of self discovery of her personal history and the place of Latinos in American society.

During a class assignment she befriends a young Jewish student and is invited to his house to work on a project (mapping out a DNA strand) that ends up being very well received but her friendships with “The Whites” alienates her from her Latino friends.

While Bee is in high school she dabbles in theater and suddenly discovers the thrill of the stage. A field trip to New York City’s entertainment district seals the deal as she sets her sights on a career in the theater. Her final declaration of independence comes as a student of Iowa State when she switches her major to theater. It is also here that she discovers that she is indeed gay which also does not go over well at home. In spite of the loss of parental support she shoulders on in her pursuit of a career.

What makes this performance so unique is the amazing talent of Chávez who plays a number of musical instruments that include a Guitarlele (small guitar), Spanish guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, harmonica, beat box, various computers and percussion. Using a sophisticated array of Loopers she literally builds an orchestra in the air adding a chorus of singing and beat boxing to the layered mix for a truly unique experience.

Special kudos to Curtis Craig for the outstanding job of Sound Design that carefully controlled the volume so it did not interfere with the story telling. Michael Boll’s Lighting Design kept our attention on Chávez as she romped across the entire stage. Lastly, Lex Liang does an amazing job on the Scenic and Costume Design.

This show is a riveting musical and poetic solitary journey of a young gay Latino woman determined to find her place in the world and in America. Along with being inspirational it is a plea for America to reexamine our immigration policies that have gone from being compassionate to political with the last administration.

Cleveland Play House’s “Where Did We Sit On The Bus” will be on stage at the Allen Theatre through November 14, 2021. For information and tickets go to https://www.clevelandplayhouse.com/ or call (216) 241-6000.

For an update on the current Playhouse Square Covid policy go to https://www.playhousesquare.org/plan-your-visit-main/health-safety

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.