18th and Union Presents ‘Revive’


“I am abundant. I am Black enough. I am gold.”

Revive, a one-woman show starring Porscha Shaw opens the socially-distanced season for 18th and Union with a powerful display of poetry, music, and dance. Though perhaps not the theatrical experience we’re accustomed to, Revive still packs a punch through its thoughtful commentary on Black identity, even through a zoom link.

Concieved by artists Porcsha Shaw and Jay O’Leary, the show comments on the historical and deeply personal trauma that comes with living as a Black American. The two Black artists work together to explore pride in the face of years of relentless oppression. The audience is exposed to a barrage of microaggressions that seem to overwhelm and almost physically hurt Shaw. Rather than become victim to these voices, however, Shaw displays a rebellious joy around her Blackness.

Many elements of the show are exceedingly simple: the set remains the same and Shaw is the sole focus for the entire duration. Through this simplicity, we experience a wide range of emotions––expressing both collective and individual emotion. The spoken word poetry was a standout. In calm moments of reflection, Shaw proves that she has a strong voice and a unique perspective. Songs are performed both by Shaw herself and additional voices that remain off screen. The singing helps create a mood that is somehow both sorrowful and full of pride. Shaw is not only a talented poet, but also a dancer and singer.

The performance is deeply personal, perhaps almost autobiographical to Shaw’s experience. Revive is not the typical dramatic performance, relying on music and spoken-word over dialogue and narrative structure. Still, though, the message surrounding Blackness, pride, and joy ring clear and true through a strong performance from Shaw. She expresses sorrow, happiness, embarrassment, and love all in the span of a thirty-minute show. Revive allows the audience members to draw their own conclusion about these themes, rather than expressing them in a heavy-handed manner. 

In a year like 2020, it is important to remember that our lives are inherently interwoven with politics. No matter how personal our day to day activities might feel, Revive explores the tension between personal and political dimensions of emotion. Prevalent themes like birth and death help us explore collective experiences that are passed down through generations. As a White audience member, this show offered some insight into Black art, culture, and creativity. This was an impactful experience that revealed moments of divergence as well as universality. 

Revive is perfect for anyone looking to dip their toes back into the theater world after months of isolation. Given its short run time and powerful message, the show is as enthralling as it is concise. Though zoom can often feel cumbersome, this live stream was full of energy and life. From the comfort of your own home, Shaw and O’Leary allow us to be emersed in a conversation about Black identity and politics. We experience the performance with the artists, as the show happens live as opposed to a recording. 

Revive by Porscha Shaw and Jay O’Leary plays virtually through 18th and Union at 7:00 pm. For more ticket information go to https://18thandunion.org/revive or call (206) 937-6499.

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