La MaMa Blogs: October 2020

Monday, October 26, 2020

Interview with Split Britches (Lois Weaver & Peggy Shaw)

La MaMa: How would you describe Split Britches’ work?

Lois Weaver: It’s personal. It’s queer. It’s autobiographical, but it’s not autobiography that looks at our lives; it’s a way to use our lives to look at other things that are going on in the world. We look at things from our own personal points of view and combine those things, combine issues with personal experience to create primarily a text-based but also imagistic kind of performance that’s rooted in popular culture, humor, and queer and feminist aesthetics.

La MaMa: Have the current conditions of the world influenced your creative practice? If so, how?

Peggy Shaw: We’re very lucky because our work has always been based in what we’re going through, and it’s never been separate from our theatrical life. Our personal life and performance life have always informed each other. I went to London to rehearse Last Gasp for La MaMa in the spring for our opening of the show, and of course, I got there, and the pandemic really hit. And then the second show we had after La MaMa, which was Barbican, also got postponed, so I had nowhere to live. These wonderful people we know in London talked to their neighbor, and they gave them a key and said we just bought a house but we can’t do anything with it right now – it’s empty. It’s a Victorian house with a backyard. So we stayed in it for five months, and because we had the energy to make a show, we made a movie of the show with everything we had.

What did we have? We had two computers; we had a video camera which we didn’t use. We used Zoom. We made a Zoom Last Gasp, and it’s almost finished. Today’s the first time we’ve seen the whole thing all together as a total, complete work, and La MaMa’s going to present it in November. We think that because we are lucky and we didn’t know anybody who had COVID, and we’ve gone through things in our lives like the AIDS crisis, and starvation, and no money, we know how to survive. So we just survived, and actually did really well and have been very excited.

Lois Weaver: Peggy said something quite important, which underlines what I said. We make work from our lives. We use our work to help us understand what it is we’re going through. We always used our performance almost as a methodology for figuring out life. The other important thing she said is that we work with what we’ve got. We’ve always just worked with what we’ve got, so what we had was the necessity to stay home. How it has changed our work and or lives is that we’ve had to, in a sense, stay home in ways that we haven’t before. We’re usually all over the place, and we make our work all over the place. But there is a certain sense of what it means to stay, to be home, that’s changed, and we’ve been working with that. And that is an essential part of the residency. We’ve been working on something called Sheltered in Place. What does it mean to be sheltered, and what does it mean to be in one place, and what comes out of that? Those are the questions we’re asking.

La MaMa: Tell us about Care Café. What made you start it and how has it evolved since then?

Lois Weaver: I started it right after Donald Trump was elected president. Peggy and I had been going downtown and texting for Hillary [Clinton], and we had enjoyed the camaraderie of being in one place with people we didn’t necessarily know but having nice conversations and doing something. After he was elected, it felt like we needed to have a wake, or we needed to have an opportunity like a wake where people come together and acknowledge the circumstance of loss in this case. I also wanted to reclaim that feeling of being in a place with people I didn't necessarily know, having good conversations, and doing something. So, I used that structure to create this thing called the Care Café to give us a chance to come together and start to heal. I used that experience as what I call a protocol. It feels like a café. It looks like a room setup like a café. People walk in and sit down with people you probably don’t know and start to have very informal conversations while you are making something, or painting something, or cutting and pasting something, or writing postcards – all under a roof of care. There’s no agenda, and there’s no discussion led by anyone in particular. It’s just a way to be together. The activity that we do, and there’s different activities each time, is just a way to take our mind off things so we can have proper conversations.

Peggy Shaw: I always think of a story when Lois’ mother finally had a couple of her kids raised, and she was going to go out to work and she was so excited. She put on her shoes and jacket and left the house, and she found out she was pregnant with Lois. She just went back into the house, took off her coat, put on the coffee, and started over. It’s just that – not even trying to control anything, but it’s just, ok, how are we going to survive this? It’s survival without anxiety in a way.

The worst part of the pandemic seems to be a lot of people grinding their teeth and not sleeping. It’s true, of course, especially when you have no money to pay your rent, but there is something about just saying: Well that didn’t work. Let’s make a new life. Let’s go back to what we think of as the old America, not what Donald Trump thinks of it, but people planning new wonderful things that don’t manipulate a system but just make a new system.

La MaMa: Tell us about your residency with La MaMa this season.

Lois Weaver: We’re always in residence at La MaMa. Even when we’re not there, we are somehow at home in La MaMa. We know that it’s always our home ,and we’re always considered as family, and we’re always connected. Even now in doing these digital residencies, and a little bit later we will be in physical residency, it doesn’t matter. We are always there. We are always at home there. That feels like a really important backdrop for the work we’re trying to do now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

La MaMa Launches Patreon Memberships

La MaMa is launching Patreon Memberships to view this season's Online Happenings on-demand as well as special events and selections from the La MaMa Archive.

All of La MaMa's Online Happenings will remain free 
when broadcast live this season.

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