|Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver recreating the famous Marlon Brando t-shirt pose in Belle Reprieve|
For the past two decades now, the Split Britches theater company has led the way in innovative lesbian performance. Their intellectual and outrageous plays gained their members the utmost respect and status in performance art and gay circles.
Split Britches' founding members, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, first met in Berlin in 1977 (where Shaw was performing with the mostly male group the Hot Peaches) and Lois Weaver was with the Spiderwoman, a feminist theatre troupe. After a costume mishap between the two groups introduced Shaw and Weaver, the two fell in love. Shaw left Hot Peaches to begin working with Weaver in An Evening of Disgusting Songs and Pukey Images.
In 1980 Lois Weaver developed a performance piece based on her aunts from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, utilizing the help of Shaw and other members of Spiderwoman. The work was given the title Split Britches because "when working in the fields the women wore trousers that were split to allow them to urinate without having to stop work to take them off." They performed the work at the first Women's One World (WOW) Festival in New York. After that success, the two set up on their own, and Deb Margolin joined them. Margolin first began as a script writer but soon began performing as well. They first performed the play as a trio in 1981 at the Boston Women's Festival. They toured with Split Britches to Britain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, and then returned to the US for an off-Broadway run in 1983. By 1982 they had already begun to work on their second play as it appeared that they would continue as an esemble after establishing a powerful presence in lesbian theater and performance.
Sue Ellen Case aptly sums up the importance of the trio in the development of contemporary lesbian performance:
Split Britches has been the recipient of numerous honors. It was awarded the Villager Award for best ensemble in 1985. Shaw received Obies in 1988 for her role in Dress Suits To Hire and in 1999 for her solo performance Menopausal Gentleman. The collaborative ensemble of Split Britches and Bloolips earned the ensemble Obie for Belle Reprieve in 1991.
Split Britches has not formally collaborated in several years, since members have recieved popularity and notoriety as solo performers.
|Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver, and Debora Margolin in Tableau Vivant... from their first collaboration titles Split Britches|
Split Britches -- 1981