Friday, 9 March 2018

Unexploded Dramaturgy: Lois Weaver @ Take Me Somewhere

Split Britches present Unexploded Ordnances (UXO), an up-to-the minute topical interactive show which takes unexploded ordnances as a metaphor for the unexplored potential in us all - particularly elders – and tries to uncover it. UXO comes to Glasgow’s Take Me Somewhere Festival on 26th May.

Legendary performance duo Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver evoke the Cold War paranoia of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove to seek solutions to the problems keeping us awake at night, as the audience counts down the final hour to doomsday on their phones.

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) is touring the UK from 13th April, visiting Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, Wales Millennium Centre, Barbican Centre and Glasgow’s Take Me Somewhere Festival.  

Split Britches present:

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)

Legendary performance duo channel Dr Strangelove in a satirical, interactive show that seeks to use the unexplored potential of the audience to stop nuclear armageddon

Performed by Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw

UK Tour 13 March – 26 May

What was the inspiration for this performance?  

The inspiration for this performance actually comes from two places. In the first place, we were inspired by the term Unexploded Ordnance. It's a term we heard while Split Britches were on an Artist Residency at an old Army base in the middle of the New York Harbor, on Governors Island. 

The person showing us around warned us not to 'do any digging' on the island incase we encounter a dangerous civil war cannonball, or an Unexploded Ordnance. Peggy and I looked at each other and thought immediately that this would be a great metaphor for working with elders on the subject of their unexplored potential. 

So, we began doing workshops with elders on this subject and then we got obsessed with the film Dr. Strangelove. We decided to put those things together and explore our buried desires while thinking about the urgencies and anxieties of time and the possibility of time running out. Then of course Brexit happened and Trump was elected so we had lots of other urgencies and anxieties to contend with!

How do you feel your work fits within the remit of the TAKE ME SOMEWHERE festival?

For one thing, Take Me Somewhere Festival has grown out The Arches. We have often performed at the Arches and love working there. So it feels great to be involved with what feels like a continuation of that. Like Take Me Somewhere Festival, the work of Split Britches tries to find innovative approaches to making performance work and mort importantly tries to give voice to the unvoiced. 

Also, like the festival, our work has always centered issues of those on the margins of mainstream society - women, LBGTQ communities - and now we are working with elder communities. 

Although Unexploded Odnances (UXO) privileges older people in a lot of ways, it also aspires to an intergenerational conversation. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?   

Our recent performance work performance is rooted in our belief that the theatre is a viable space for public conversation. We intentionally set up situations where we can talk with the audience not just to the audience. We try to create performance mechanisms that will encourage dialogue with us as well as other members of the audience.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I began performing when I was four years old I think because I was an exhibitionist. Peggy began performing in her early 30s after a career as a painter and printmaker in order to express her sexuality. Since then, performance for both myself and Peggy has always been a way to address some of the challenges we face as we move through life. 

For the last forty years it's been a way to help us answer difficult questions like - what does it mean to be a woman, a lesbian; how do you manage a long term relationship, what does it mean to be a butch going through menopause, how do you sustain a performance career after a stroke, what do we need to know about getting old and having sex. 

Now, with this performance, we're asking the question how might I use my unexplored desires to allay my global anxiety.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show? 

Since the beginning of our work together we have used humor and drawn from popular culture such as film and live television to investigate serious and sometimes painful issues.  

More recently, I've been developing formats
for conducting accessible and democratic public conversations such as Long Tables, Porch Sittings and Care Cafés. In Unexploded Ordnances (UXO), we have combined these approaches and are experimenting with juxtaposing rehearsed performance that includes song, dance and comedy, with real-time conversations with the audience.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions? 
See above

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 

We hope that people will come away feeling a bit more connected in these times of harsh disconnection. We hope that they feel a little less isolated and perhaps some hope for the future. 

We hope that the audience will enjoy the company of a table full of elders who are sharing their experiences and talking about their world concerns as much as we do. We hope people laugh a little and come away thinking about how their own buried desires might help them solve a problem - even if it seems ridiculous or whimsical or impossible.

Split Britches present an up-to-the minute topical interactive show which takes unexploded ordnances as a metaphor for the unexplored potential in us all - particularly elders – and tries to uncover it. Legendary performance duo Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver evoke the Cold War paranoia of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove to seek solutions to the problems keeping us awake at night, as the audience counts down the final hour to doomsday on their phones.
On a stage that echoes the film’s iconic War Room, with a round table and doomsday images projected onto screens, Peggy and Lois adopt the characters of a bombastic general and ineffectual president, lacing the performance with both playful urgency and lethargy and encouraging discussion about the political landscape. The twelve eldest audience members are invited to enter the Situation Room and become a Council of Elders to discuss the global issues of the day from Trump, Brexit and Climate Change to the challenges of the ageing baby boom generation – as the company weave in satirical insights and spirit-lifting humour, resulting in a production where each show is unique. 
Developed over two years through residencies with older people in London, Los Angeles and on New York’s historical Governor’s Island (where real undetonated civil war bombs lie buried beneath the surface), UXO is the latest show from the groundbreaking duo whose work is characterised by experimentation in form and political content, as well as plenty of pop culture references. It marks Split Britches return to the UK following Peggy Shaw’s RUFF, which toured in 2016, including shows at the Barbican.
Speaking about the show Lois Weaver said “We've always used performance to help us through our personal challenges — about being butch and going through menopause, being femme and feeling invisible, or being an artist during the Reagan-Thatcher era. Now that we're older we use performance to help us think about age. We started this project before Trump was elected and before Dr. Strangelove became as relevant as it is now. We drew from the doomsday urgency of the film, that something horrible is going to happen unless we do something. But it's really about the urgency of time as an elder as well.” 
Split Britches have been creating satirical, gender-bending performance for 37 years. Founded in New York in 1980 with Deb Margolin, the company’s work comprises methods for public engagement, videography, digital and print media, explorations of ageing and wellbeing, and iconic lesbian-feminist theatre.
Lois Weaver is an artist, activist, Professor of Contemporary Performance at Queen Mary, University of London and a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fellow.  She was co-founder of Spiderwoman Theater, WOW and Artistic Director of Gay Sweatshop in London. Peggy Shaw is a performer, writer, producer and teacher of writing and performance. She co-founded Split Britches and WOW in NYC. She is a veteran of Hot Peaches and Spiderwoman and has collaborated as writer and performer with Lois Weaver and Split Britches since 1980.
Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) is part of the Barbican’s 2018 Season, The Art of Change, which explores how artists respond to, reflect and can potentially effect change in the social and political landscape

@Split_Britches | #Unexplodedordnances |

Running Time: 1 hr 15 minutes | Suitable for ages 16+
Company Information

Performed by Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw

Written by Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw and Hannah Maxwell

Created with Jo Palmer, Claire Nolan, Matt Delbridge, Alex Legge, Edythe Woolley, Meg Hodgson

Listings information

13 – 14 March Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, Brighton

University of Sussex, Gardner Center Road, Brighton BN1 9RA

7pm | £12, £10 (concs) | 01273 678822

27 – 31 March Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Bute Pl, Cardiff Bay CF10 5AL

7pm | £12 | 029 2063 6464

15 – 19 May Barbican Centre, London

Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS

7.45pm | £18 | 020 7638 4141

BSL-interpreted performance: Thu 17 May 2018, 7.45pm
Post-show talk (BSL-interpreted): Thu 17 May 2018 (free to same-day ticket holders)
Weekend Lab with Lois Weaver: Sat 19 & Sun 20 May 2018

26 May Take Me Somewhere Festival, Glasgow

Platform, 1000 Westerhouse Rd, Glasgow G34 9JW
Times and prices TBC | 0141 276 9696

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