with THE CLOD ENSEMBLE
Includes two new shows: "Miss Risqué" & "It's A Small House and We've Lived in it Always"
by: Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver
directed by: Suzy Willson
original music by: Paul Clark
lighting by: Aideen Malone
additional direction & choreography by: Stormy Brandenberger
sets by: Annabel Lee
costumes by: Susan Young & Sarah Blenkinsop
February 14 - March 3, 2002
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday at 2:30pm
$20.00 New York Times Review
February 27, 2002
"Double Agency," the newest work by Split Britches'
Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, includes two shows: "Miss Risqué" and "It's
A Small House and We've Lived in It Always." It is the first collaboration
between Split Britches and the renowned English troupe, The Clod Ensemble.
The evening is directed by Suzy Willson and scored with original music
by Paul Clark. It is the NY premiere of a work which originally premiered
this winter at The Purcell Room on South Bank, London. "Miss
Risqué" is written by Shaw and Weaver. Billed as "a
story of secrets and showgirls,"
it is set in a fin de siecle Paris Music Hall. Lois Weaver plays a showgirl
whose character is a cross between Mata Hari and Mistinguett. The former,
we all know, was the famous spy of World War I; the latter was the sensational,
seductive 1920s musical star who ruled the stages of the "City of
Women," insured her legs for a million dollars, and launched the career
of her partner, Maurice Chevalier (but faded away with the advent of cinema).
Peggy Shaw plays a mustachioed suitor who ostensibly aspires to be the
glamorous star's dance partner, and whose masculine drag evinces a skill
for deception that rivals her alluring counterpart's. The piece is a lyrical
lesbian tarantella that explores the power of femininity, visibility, invisibility
and deception. Peggy Shaw speculates that it is all about "what it
is about femininity that makes it dangerous."
Lois Weaver calls it a piece on "resistant femininity," or how
a woman can have sexual power (i.e., indulge in the trappings of femininity
and exercise sterotypical feminine wiles) without becoming objectified
by it. Reviewing the production London, Dorothy Max Prior (Total Theatre)
wrote, "As the audience arrives, the glorious Lois Weaver is in place,
taking up most of the stage; her snow white dress flowing over tiered platforms,
a head-dress adding to the height so that she presides over the audience,
a larger than life Liberty Belle. Enter Peggy Shaw, private Dick and stage-door
Johnny, on a journey from awe-struck Peeping Tom to adoring dance partner.
'Miss Risqué' both subverts and celebrates the vaudeville tradition.
The show is a feast of female drag--the powdered and permed showgirl and
her be-suited and mustachioed beau both artificial constructs, yet both
true and powerful representations of aspects of womanhood." The work
was originally commissioned by the Nuffield Theatre in Lancaster, England
through an Arts Council of England Lottery Grant. (In Blighty, lottery
proceeds are used to finance cultural projects.) "It's A Small
House and We've Lived in It Always" is an unspoken, physical piece
with three songs in the style of American Blues. Shaw and Weaver play a
couple enduring a relationship of twenty years, still demanding attention
from each other and negotiating space. While appearing to be about women
in love, it is actually universal, according to its creators. "Territory
is biological," says Weaver, explaining that the two women wouldn't
have to be lovers to have the same situation; they could actually be mother
and daughter. Dorothy Max Prior wrote in Total Theatre, "'It's a Small
House and We've Lived in it Always' is...a 'play' in word, song and movement.
Two lonesome lovers act out the girl-boy (or girl-girl) tease and truculence
of a married life. Lois Weaver maps the feminine, Peggy Shaw pulls off
an extraordinary portrait of 'masculinity'--her 'butch' is not a stereotypical
machismo but the nervy, exasperated, pleading masculinity of the 'boy-man'
who tries to do what his woman wants but so often gets it wrong. Having
worked together for over twenty years, theirs is a stage partnership of
a rare calibre--together they spark and fizz. Split Britches are political
in their very existence, but eschew agit-prop to create theatre that is
multi-faceted, funny and beautiful." The piece was originally commissioned
by Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank (an institution comparable
to our Lincoln Center for London). Shaw and Weaver glow when speaking of
their collaboration with Suzy Willson, a Lecoq-trained director, and Paul
Clark, a contemporary classical composer, who are the mainstays of The
Clod Ensemble. Creatively, this project gave them the opportunity to
integrate movement and visuals in a "precise"
performance style that differed from the broad, vaudevillian genre of Split
Britches' work to-date. Under the staging of Suzy Willson and with the
score of composer Paul Clark, there has emerged a different, more precise
tone and a simple aesthetic line. Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, together
with Deb Margolin (all veterans of Hot Peaches and Spiderwoman Theater),
co-founded Split Britches in 1981 at NYC's WOW Cafe (an outgrowth of the
WOW International Theater Festivals there of 1980 and 1981). The company
received an Obie in 1986 for sustained excellence. Peggy Shaw has received
Obie Awards for performance in 1987 for "Dress Suits for Hire" and
in 1999 for "Menopausal Gentleman."
Shaw and Weaver have become known for "a long line of smart, thrillingly
well-executed performance pieces" (Katherine Dieckmann, Village Voice)
and "tough intellectual and verbal content (John Hammond, The Native).
They won two more Obies for ensemble acting in La MaMa's "Belle Reprieve"
(1991), a collaboration with Bloolips that was a reversed-gender version
of "Streetcar Named Desire." They have also appeared in The Club
at LaMaMa in "Lesbians Who Kill" (1993), a satirical work on
violent fantasies, "Lust and Comfort" (1995), a play set in London
in the '50s which addressed sterility and complacency in long-term relationships
and the urge to reinvent desire, and "Salad of the Bad Cafe" (2000),
a collaboration with performance artist Stacy Makishi that was inspired
by Carson McCullers' novel "Ballad of the Sad Cafe" and the lives
of Tennessee Williams and Yukio Mishima. Shaw and Weaver have also introduced
solo, largely autobiographical shows at La MaMa: Shaw's
"You're Just Like My Father" (1994) was an autobiographical work
on growing up Butch in the 1950s. Weaver's "Faith and Dancing: mapping
femininity and other natural disasters" (1997) was a work about growing
up a femme dyke in Baptist Virginia.
YORK TIMES REVIEW February 27, 2002
by Lawrence Van Gelder
One-Acts Deal in Delicate Negotiations, in the Music Hall and Home A
couple of talented performers are having fun in a couple of vehicles
coupled under the title
"Double Agency," playing through Sunday as La Mama Experimental
Theater Club celebrates its 40th anniversary.The performers and
writers are Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver of the Split Britches Company
in fruitful collaboration with two members of the Clod Ensemble, Suzy
Willson, who directed the show, and Paul Clark, who provided the music.The
pieces are "Miss
Risqué" and "It's a Small House and We've Lived in
It Always," and if each component of this 100-minute show seems
to run slightly longer than necessary, each maintains an admirable
balance between cleverly conceived, spirited entertainment and intelligent
casts Ms. Weaver as a voluptuous blond French music hall star in the
years leading up to World War II. Part Mata Hari, part diva, she
is under investigation by a counterintelligence agent played by the
short-haired Ms. Shaw, uniformed as a man. The piece is at once a
study in role playing, gender, personal and professional seduction
and the allure and illusion of show business. Ms. Weaver
changing costumes from a Niagara of white gown to one of deep blue, stripping
to corset and gartered stockings, baring her bosom, dressing again,
putting on airs and putting down Ms. Shaw, the clownish agent who
goes undercover to offer himself as her professional and personal
partner is a force to be reckoned with. This piece ranges
among the realistic, romantic and absurd and is at best in dealing
with the duality of an actor's life."It's a Small
House and We've Lived in It Always" is a thoughtfully choreographed
work that is splendidly enhanced by the bluesy music of Mr. Clark.
With three chairs as its only props, little speech, some song and much
meaningful movement and expressive acting, the piece casts Ms. Weaver,
in blouse and skirt, and Ms. Shaw in shirt and trousers, as longtime
cohabitants engaged in a contest for space.As they move apart
and then together, spurn advances and accept closeness, mime rejection
and flirtation and reveal need, the two performers enact the ebb and
flow of a universally resonant relationship.