Where Did We Sit on the Bus?

By Alexa Hait

This past weekend, my brother and I were deciding on a show to see. The two of us are huge theatre fans and hadn’t seen anything in a while. There were a handful of shows to decide between: The Encounter, Waitress, and The Color Purple (I’ve seen the last two but my brother has yet to see them). In the end, we settled on an off-off-Broadway show that an actor named Dave Thomas Brown (RIP American Psycho: the Musical) raved about on his Facebook. When I say raved, I mean raved. See for yourself below.

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Anyway, the two of us figured since there was that much hype for this show combined with how much cheaper it would be than to see something on Broadway, we were in. Now I am here to tell you, IT WAS WORTH IT. By worth it, I mean, incredible. Brian Quijada, the writer and performer of this one man show, told the story of his life as the son of two immigrant parents who gave up everything to start a new life and provide for their family. He delves into his Latino experience and the ways it forced him to grow up. The title, “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?” comes from the time he asked his teacher that exact question while learning about Rosa Parks. The lesson was literally too black and white for Quijada to understand, and the teacher did not even know how to answer his question. Quijada’s story is one that is unfortunately barely ever represented in the media and is one that needs to be heard. If that doesn’t convince you enough to support this man in his theatrical endeavors then maybe the fact that he combines music, beats and spoken word all into this experience will. Quijada himself even posted the following on his Facebook page, “Describing my show to people is tough. Autobiographical, Live Looped, Hip Hop, Spoken Word…uh One Man Extravaganza?” Check out the trailer here to get a glimpse into this life-changing piece and see it before it closes October 9th! You won’t regret it.

Alexa Hait is a first-year at Barnard College and contributor for Barnard Bite.

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I Spent the Night with Janis Joplin

by Soyini Driskell

The blues is just a good woman feeling bad 
Nobody feels the blues like an everyday woman
– Janis Joplin from A Night with Janis Joplin

Let me confess upfront: I am not one of those cool kids who knows Janis Joplin songs, her life story, her contributions to blues and rock music, nothing. Yet when I was invited to attend A Night with Janis Joplin on Broadway this week, I couldn’t think of a better way to further put off my Shakespeare reading (hey Professor Platt!). So I hopped on the train to the Lyceum Theatre for an evening with the lady from Port Arthur, Texas.

The musical was set up as a music revue with Janis Joplin singing her popular songs while supported by her background singers, the Joplinaires. In between, there were appearances by some of her musical inspirations, Etta James, Bessie Smith, and Nina Simone to name a few, and short monologues with Janis telling stories about her youth and path to stardom. The show aims to be fairly family friendly: it focused on the music and skated over Joplin’s notorious history with drugs and alcohol. While Janis does swig from a Southern Comfort bottle on stage, (known as her drink of choice and offered to audience members in Sippee cups to enjoy during the show, Drink like Janis!), she does so with a tongue-in-cheek camp meant to be funny, not evocative of self-destructive behavior.

She certainly puts on a show.

At the performance I attended, the understudy Kacee Clanton was in the role of Janis, and she was a revelation. She showcased an amazing, gravelly voice that was a beautiful homage to the singer’s famous voice: the audience worshipped her from the first note of “Summertime,” and once she got through “Piece of My Heart” and “Cry Baby,” the room was hers. What resonated with me was the feminist bent during her monologues: one of her first lines in the musical is “Nobody feels the blues like an everyday woman” and she continues to pepper the play with references to women’s lives, especially her own, well-suited to singing the blues. Though I assure you, all the ‘everyday men’ in attendance were also having a great time singing along to “Me and Bobby McGee.”

The show opened on October 10th and tickets are on sale through March 30th: I whole-heartedly recommend spending a night with Janis.

Soyini Driskell is a junior at Barnard and the On Campus and Features Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Theatre’s Leiter Side and Soyini Driskell.

Cynthia Nixon ’88 Proves to be Adept at "Wit"

By Alexandra Ley

Cynthia Nixon, BC ’88, stars in Wit

One way to kill two birds with one stone: support a Barnard alum while immersing yourself in a wonderful night out by checking out Margaret Edson’s Wit. The play is presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club and opened last night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Cynthia Nixon, BC ‘88 plays Vivian Bearing, Ph.D, an English professor with a love of seventeenth-century poetry, no family, and a diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer, which has given her, as she tells the audience at the top of the play, “less than two hours.” The audience follows along with Vivian’snarration of her treatment, which is interspersed with flashbacks to critical moments of her life and illustrious academic career.

Nixon, best known for her role of Miranda on Sex in the City, is a stage veteran with a Theatre World Award and other performance accolades to her name. She performs with a commanding stage presence, impeccable comedic timing, and fantastic physicality in a role that spans many ages and stages of physical deterioration. Nixon barely leaves the audience’s sight in the approximate 100 minutes of the play and never loses her steam. Although the subject matter might not quite be to the knowledge or taste of every single audience member, and Vivian is not exactly a protagonist who is easy to sympathize with, her commentary has solid undertones of everyday relatable issues: a love of language, the desire to succeed and surpass expectations, and a trepidation of death that contradicts how the great writers we constantly revere have been writing about it for centuries.

The humor and drama of the play emerges in Nixon’s conversations with other characters; most often, Harvey Kelekian, M.D. (played by Michael Countryman) and Susie Monahan, R.N., B.S.N. (played by Carra Patterson in her Broadway debut). One of the most touching interactions of the play is the scene in which Susie comforts Vivian, who has become accustomed to being in charge of a situation but finds she must submit herself to her body and the care of others. Santo Loquasto’s set is impressive in its simplicity and convertibility, which contributes to the audience’s sense of comfort in listening into Vivian’s private final thoughts. A white wall rotates in the middle of the stage throughout the production, showing multiple settings with minimal props and set pieces as Vivian’s memories wander. This play may be especially appealing for Barnard College students who will see the play as the journey of a liberal arts teacher who must be taught things about death, the topic that has consumed her scholarship, and reminisces on a few student-teacher relationships that she has had.

Most of all, this drama celebrates language–the language of poetry, of children’s books, of our everyday lives- and the power that it has over our lives and, consequently, deaths. With an unparalleled and talented leading lady and a wonderful supporting cast, Vivian’s story is brought to life in a beautiful play that approaches the topic of death and the process of dying with care, intelligence, and – dare I say it? – wit.
Alexandra Ley is a junior at Barnard College. When she was a toddler, her mother had to buy her about five copies of Goodnight Moon in succession because she loved the book so much she kept destroying it by trying to eat it.


Image courtesy of Broadway.com.