Breathe Review – Getting Touch with Who You Are

Philicia Saunders in BREATHE - Photo by Mike Struna
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Art Activism may be a new term to many – but to writer/performer Philicia Saunders and director Roger Q. Mason, interactive, multimedia theater art should always have a focus, a learning experience to offer to audiences far and wide. BREATHE is Philicia Saunders’ personal journey as she searches for clues to who she is and who she may become. Philicia’s journey is powerful and moving, starting with a trip to a Civil Rights monument while she is on a civil rights tour in Alabama.

Poster for BREATHE – Photo courtesy of Roger Q. Mason

Philicia is the product of a well-to-do African American family living in a prosperous black enclave in Los Angeles. She has been the lucky recipient of all life’s advantages – a loving family, an excellent education, and acceptance in an Ivy League school. And yet she feels that she is missing something – some undefined something which hovers just beneath her consciousness. Something which she has to discover if she is ever able to become truly whole. The chance trip to Alabama will prove to be the something she has been searching for.

Philicia Saunders – Photo by Mike Struna

As Philicia begins to get in touch with her own roots, she begins to understand herself in a way which was not possible before. But she also begins to question events she took for granted before. Was she sometimes “the token black?” Did others relate to her – or to her color? Did she represent a talented, educated young woman – or a stab at workplace diversity? But the story wouldn’t be complete without introducing the audience to “Sweet” Alice Harris, Compton community legend and activist extraordinaire. Sweet Alice will offer Philicia something to strive for, a goal worthy of her talents.

Philicia Saunders – Photo by Mike Struna

BREATHE is an electrifying, potent tale of one person’s growth amid the clutter of today’s world. Philicia Saunders does a brilliant job of portraying her many faces – and she can sing and dance too! Even though the show is billed as “A Solo Experience,” it is so well produced and thoughtfully executed that it seems like there are several key players in the story. Philicia doesn’t feel like a woman alone on a stage – but rather one person amongst many. Roger Q. Mason does a superb job of pulling the many Philicias from the star – all the while telling history in an intimate and meaningful way. For this is not the dry history in high school history books (often too thick and too opaque to entice youngsters). This is living history which continues to this moment in time.

Philicia Saunders – Photo by Mike Struna

BREATHE streams from December 11 to December 18, 2020 on YouTube (Friday 12/11 at 6 p.m. PST; Saturday 12/12 at 3:30 p.m. PST; Sunday 12/13 at 2 p.m.; Monday 12/18 at 5 p.m. PST). Performances on 12/11, 12/12, and 12/18/2020 are on a sliding scale ($5 to $50 with proceeds going to Sweet Alice’s nonprofit “Parents of Watts” and the “Community Coalition.” “Pay-what-you-can” registration is available for the 12/13/2020 performance.