Founded in New York in 1980, Split Britches: Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, and Deb Margolin, has continued for 40 years with the performance work of Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw. Since then they’ve created work out of a feminist, democratic DIY aesthetic, performing their first pieces at the WOW Café in NYC, which they co-founded. From the scrappy, performance-making below the poverty line, downtown NY theatre scene, they’ve now become two elder figures in queer performance art and lesbian identity. Weaver and Shaw’s work spans theatre, live-art, solo performance, workshops, digital media, models for public conversation and published texts, and has been presented in a wide range of contexts around the world. Since it’s inception, Split Britches have been committed to working with women, women of color, and LGBTQ+ communities. More recently their work has been centred within a community of elders. Their accessible yet radical performances and workshops consist of a larger, lifelong project to facilitate communication, wellness, and social change.
Weaver and Shaw’s residency will be spent working on their new project Last Gasp. Set against a back drop of climate catastrophe and political heartbreak, Last Gasp is a call and response to the precarities of ageing and of our age. It troubles the borders of identity, looking at differences in age, race, class, gender, and sexuality, using the methodology of identity and the ubiquity of ‘how-to’ culture as an approach to life and death in general and climate catastrophe in particular. The ‘gasp’ in last gasp highlights how we might catch our breath in these times of great global uncertainty, while considering our ‘last acts’, whether personal, political or environmental. Two separate but interdependent solo performances made up of verbal and physical essays are woven together through the timeless pairing of Echo and Narcissus. Lois Weaver pulls back the cloth to find out what’s under the table, echoing the horrors of the end times and the know-hows for survival. Peggy Shaw turns her suit inside out and picks apart the seams of her own identity fragilities, reflecting on whether there isn’t a demagogue lurking in all of us.
Photo credit: Christa Holka