Give this show your time. Give this show your money. Most importantly, give this story and Brian Quijada your attention.
Directed by Chay Yew, “Where Did We Sit on the Bus” is a remount of Quijada’s 2016 world premiere, which also launched under Yew’s direction, at Chicago’s Storefront Theater.
Quijada’s combination of storytelling, beat boxing, singing/rapping, music making and moon walking blend into an incredible piece of theater centering on his Latino heritage. The themes presented resonate across cultural divides and bring Latinos into the conversation of American history, challenging traditional contexts. For instance, when buses were divided based on skin color, where did the Latinos sit?
Most of Quijada’s stories have a serious message but are told with a sense of humor. One story in particular takes on a new meaning in our present political climate: Quijada tells of taking a class trip to New York, visiting Ellis Island and discovering no Quijadas had been recorded registering there though many of his classmates were able to find their ancestors. Yet, in leaving the historic site, he is struck by the words of Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free… Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” In response, Quijada states “Let them in.”
It’s impossible to hear this message and not think of the immigrants and refugees currently yearning to be let in to these shores or be given the permission they so earnestly hope for to be allowed to stay. After seeing this show, one can’t help but wish for and want to fight for them to indeed be let in, cared for and respected because of the wealth of contributions humans, when given a chance, can accomplish. (Mary Kroeck)
Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 North Lincoln, (773)871-3000, victorygardens.org, $20. Through June 4.
“Where Did We Sit on the Bus” is part of Victory Gardens’ “Up Close and Personal” series, running in rep with “A Little Bit Not Normal” and “St. Jude.” For every ticket purchased, Victory Gardens will donate a ticket to a Chicago Public School student.