A new play on stage and a couple of haircuts.
If you know Brian Quijada, you love him. His brilliant one-man show Where Did We Sit on the Bus? opens tonight for a run at BCT continuing through Jan. 28. It’s Brian’s personal story, and it won Chicago’s Jeff Awards for Best Solo Performance and Best Sound Design, but his play is more than award worthy.
Brian’s performance is singular. The pulsing, live looping sound is all his, though it’s inspired by Michael Jackson, 90s R&B and hip hop, the Beatles, even Hall & Oates. As a kid, Brian became obsessed with dancing, seeking out partners at church parties beginning at age 9. That’s one of the details we learn during his athletic 80-minute performance. The show is a cross country sensation and I thought BCT fans would enjoy learning about the role Boise played in the making of “Bus.”
During our 15|16 season, Brian appeared in our Co-World Premiere of No More Sad Things by Hansol Jung. I am a big fan of Brian and his ability to charm audiences while telling meaningful stories, so I asked him to do a one-night informal performance of his solo show. At the time, motivated by director Chay Yew, he was contemplating a big rewrite of “Bus” and jumped at the chance to do the show for the BCT audience, who loved it.
That paved the way for successful runs in Chicago, where Brian grew up, and New York City. And now it’s back in the City of Trees. We joke about the standard track for new American plays being Chicago-NYC-Boise, but the truth is, Brian loves it here. “It’s just the best, I love it. The BCT company is just delightful. Everyone is so supportive. It feels like family.”
Family is at the heart of his story. A key moment comes when he asks his third-grade teacher to explain where Latinos fit in during the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 60s. Not to give too much away, but Brian’s parents are immigrants who took enormous risks to come to the U.S. and worked very hard to secure a better life for their four boys. Brian’s teacher didn’t have a satisfactory answer, which is a good thing for the audience because it provides a wonderful device to peel away at who we are in this great country of immigrants.
It’s a story that has resonance, which I learned when Brian and I ventured out together to get haircuts. I took him along for my appointment at The Beardsmith on the Boise Bench and proprietors Wendy, the barber, and her partner Jeff, owner of a world-class beard, were keen to hear what he’s up to. “I’m like a one-man band,” Brian explained, and as he told the story of how he creates the music for the show everyone in the barbershop was listening.
A trim for me at The Beardsmith. Why so serious? Non-profit work ain’t easy, people.
Then I took Brian down to Sixth Street to get his haircut at Peace Valley Dry Goods, where barbers, Ryan and Chris, along with everyone else in the shop became instant fans as well.
BQ smiling as usual and getting a sweet fade.
In the show, Brian becomes a charming character he calls “Lord of the Mouth,” who I think will amplify one of the secrets of BCT’s success: big word of mouth about our work.
The show is selling well. We’ve got a great thing going as we continue what’s been the best start to a season in our 21-year history. If you don’t have your tickets yet, I hope you’ll join us. Brian Quijada is an extraordinary talent.
Matthew Cameron Clark
Founding Artistic Director
Boise Contemporary Theater
“We tell stories here.”