One of the theater troupes featured in “Staging Lesbian and Gay New York,” Robin Bernstein’s contribution to our forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York City, is Split Britches. Bernstein recounts how Lois Weaver, a non-Native member of the Native American company Spiderwoman Theater, “fell in love with Peggy Shaw, a butch lesbian member of [the troupe] Hot Peaches.” According to Bernstein:
Shaw left Hot Peaches to join Spiderwoman for Cabaret: An Evening of Disgusting Songs and Pukey Images 16 (1979), but soon Shaw and Weaver both left Spiderwoman to strike out on their own. The ensuing personal and professional partnership between Shaw and Weaver became one of the most fecund in New York’s theater history. In 1980, the two collaborated on WOW (Women’s One World), an international women’s theater festival that was staged in the Electric Circus on St. Marks Place. The tremendous success of that festival, which included thirty-six performances fro 1 m eight countries, led to the founding of the WOW Café, a permanent East Village theater space that continues to foster innovative theater.
Shaw and Weaver would eventually join forces with Pam Verge, Naja Beye, and Deb Margolin to create Split Britches, which, Bernstein writes, “combined a Spiderwoman-inspired sense of free-associative play and raunchy humor with a sexy, campy centering of butch-femme and “eclectic combinations of fastidious attention to realistic detail with bizarre flights of surrealistic fantasy. Split Britches innovated a method of playwriting rooted in fantasy, desire, and improvisation.”
Shaw and Weaver are performing their latest play, Lost Lounge, right now at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie Street, between Rivington and Delancey). According to their promotional materials, the show is a “tribute to the people who hold out and to the places they gather to sift through what is lost and found when delicate memory is confronted with hard won progress.”
Remaining shows are Wed. – Sat., December 16, 17, 18, 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and students.
Time Out recently featured an interview with Weaver, in which she describes the pair’s technique: “What we do is we take the perspective of a lesbian as a given, and then we think and talk about other things.” In the case of Lost Lounge, that means exploring how “memory is tied up with landscape, and what happens when you lose your landscape—how identity is tied into place and how it feels like we’re losing part of our identity by losing those places.” The place Weaver has in mind is the East Village. No wonder EV Grieve featured a post about the show!
Tags: Cambridge Companion