Name: Brian Quijada
Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois
Current Town: New York City
Affiliations: University of Iowa Alum and proud member of Ensemble Studio Theatre in NYC
Q: How do you self-identify?
Q: Tell me about Where Did We Sit on the Bus?
A: Where Did We Sit on the Bus? is my most recent work. It can be described a lot of ways but I like to call it an autobiographical, one man, hip hop, live looped, extravaganza about a Latino boy coming of age in the Northern Chicagoland area. It premiered with Teatro Vista in Chicago Spring of 2016, then transferred Off-Broadway to Ensemble Studio Theatre that Fall, and had its Northwest premiere at Boise Contemporary Theatre in early 2017. It will be remounted in Chicago this summer at Victory Gardens. It is my very first play and it’s been the ride of my life. Before this play I didn’t know people cared about stories like mine. I didn’t know I could write and perform in my own work. It has taught me a lot about who I want to be as a storyteller and given me an incredible gift of believing that my story matters. The play is about my discovering of my Latin identity, how my parents came to the States, and how they have dealt with my pursuit of art as a profession.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I’m currently writing a new ensemble piece entitled Kid Prince and Pablo. It is an American, hip hop retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. My brother and I are collaborating on creating a new play that reflects the current political climate in a fresh new take on an old story that focuses on race, class, and the wealth divide in America.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: Writing this new play has been a major moment in my career as a playwright. I have had a hard time calling myself a playwright. I went to school at Iowa along with some of the best playwrights I have ever met (Idris Goodwin, Jen Silverman, Tony Meneses, etc.). I consider them to be true trained playwrights. I have always looked up to them and I’ve felt like a fraud when calling myself a playwright. By like them early on, I am still learning. Writing an ensemble play and learning the ins and outs of putting together a cohesive story, in such a different way than putting together a solo show, has given me such a confidence boost in my storytelling ability. I have a renewed faith in my voice and a unique take on an American story.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: Idris Goodwin is a longtime homie. Amazing playwright, dope rapper, and writer. Working on his play How We Got On was a huge moment for me. I saw storytelling in a new way. I had developed that play since college, developed it at the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference, and premiered it at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It was the first time I had ever witnessed and experienced almost the entire process of rewriting and rewriting and putting on a production. Also he’s an incredible voice and is the definition of hustle. Chay Yew is also an amazing mentor. When he came on board as director for my first play Bus, he pushed me to the limits. He did not coddle me nor did he ever let me fall short of giving my writing everything I had. I poured my heart out and he would straightforwardly tell if it was good or not. I needed that. He is an epic storyteller and I’ve learned so much from my collaboration with him.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Write what you know and write ‘til the end. Everyone has a story to tell. I believe the Latinx story is an under told story in the American Theatre. I definitely want to hear more because then I won’t feel so alone when I leave the theater every time. And write to the end because once you have finished your story, you can surround yourself with people you believe to be smart and brilliant and attempt to rewrite it to perfection. But finishing what you want to say is key.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I’m a die-hard Chicago Bulls fan. I idolize Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson. Therefore MJ’s “Jam” music video is one of my favorite things ever.
***For more on Brian Quijada, see:
- “When Life’s a Crazy Mess, Try Going Onstage” – Alexis Soloski (New York Times)
- “Friday Playlist: Brian Quijada’s Where Did We Sit on the Bus? Mixtape” – Brian Quijada (BroadwayBox.com)
- Where Did We Sit on the Bus? at Teatro Vista
- Clips of Where Did We Sit on the Bus?
- “How I Learned to Dance” Monologue from Where Did We Sit on the Bus?