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CPH Kicks Off 2021-22 Season with WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS?

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The show runs October 23 through November 14, 2021 in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square.

CPH Kicks Off 2021-22 Season with WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS?

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.


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