Peggy Shaw


Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014
Theatre

New York, NY

Peggy Shaw is a performer, writer, and producer based in New York City. In 1980, with Lois Weaver and Deb Margolin, she co-founded Split Britches Theater Company, which has transformed the landscape of queer performance with its trademark vaudevillian, satirical, gender-bending works. Shaw also co-founded the WOW Cafe Theatre, a year-round festival of women's and transgender people's performance. Her recent solo performance, RUFF (2013), responds to her 2011 stroke and subsequent recovery, and also initiated the first ‘Public Service Announcement’ advisory film aimed at elders. Shaw has received two MAP Fund grants (2012, 2007), a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant (2004), and numerous OBIE Awards. In 2011, Michigan Press published A Menopausal Gentleman, a collection of her solo show scripts. She teaches writing and performance internationally and has worked with female prisoners in Brazil through the Staging Human Rights initiative. With Weaver, Shaw is currently developing Unexploded Ordnances, creating methodologies for mining unexplored potential in older people.

  • Peggy Shaw- "Public Service Announcement" (2015): http://vimeo.com/126611265
    "Public Service Announcement" (2015)
  • Peggy Shaw- RUFF (2013): http://vimeo.com/87678948
    RUFF (2013)
  • Peggy Shaw
  • Photo Credit: Lee Wexler
    RUFF (2013)
  • Photo Credit: Lee Wexler
    RUFF (2013)
  • RUFF (2013)
  • RUFF (2013)

What creative challenges do you face as an artist?

Besides my life-long limitations of not being able to sing, dance, or memorize lines, I find that my main challenge is waking up in the morning and making sure that before I have to write or perform that I am somebody. I struggle to find the truth of that identity in a world that is not always ready for me or for my type of work. I feel like most things written about women and about lesbians do not apply to me, and that I have to make up for hundreds of years of a culture that has left out any truth of who I am and have been trying to become.

So, I make all of my performances about my challenges—coming to terms with my female masculinity, my butch desires, my lesbian menopause, my sense of place in the collapsing American dream, and my loss of place and memory through urban redevelopment. My last piece, RUFF, was an exploration of aging through the experience of having had a stroke. Aging as a performer is my latest challenge, but my aesthetic has always been one that creates an intimacy with the audience that allows for mistakes, lapses of memory, and a sense that they never quite know what’s going to happen.

But, I am now looking to perform a new type of aging, one that places sex and sexuality at the center in order to challenge what it means to be an old woman and one that uses performance to produce a sexy well-being for me and my audience.