Women Are Laughing Again: Lesbian Theatre from WOW Cafe to​ Fun Home, E Glasure

Tags: Split Britches, Holly Hughes, Cora, New York City, feminist movement, Peggy Shaw, social change, lesbian feminist theatre, cultural map, A True Story, lesbian feminism, Lesbian Brothers, Lisa Kron, Della Mae, Kron Interview, women laughing, subject position, Peggy Phelan, lesbian character, Theatre Communications Group, theatrical representation, lesbian porn, Spiderwoman Theatre Company, Five Lesbian Brothers, Maureen Angelos, Karen Finley, New York, second wave feminism, Cora Jane, feminist theatre, characters, Emma Gay, Lois Weaver, Della Mae Gearhart, Jill Dolan, women, Patty Johnson, lesbian community, Jordi Mark, WOW, representation, lesbian theatre
Content: Glasure 1 "Women Are Laughing Again": Lesbian Theatre from WOW Cafe to Fun Home Elizabeth Glasure Honor's Thesis
Glasure 2 "Culture is a map of humanity. The artist's job is to identify worlds that aren't put on the map yet." -Lisa Kron From the beginnings of recorded history, the theatre has been a known platform for the deviants and willful revolutionaries of the world. Perhaps because of its sly ability to circumvent censorship subtextually, or perhaps because of its ability to overcome economic boundaries with its ambitious reach, the theatre has long been a somewhat secretive pulpit from which to spread fire to the masses. Because of this, much social change can be traced back to the work of the theatre. One of the most fertile moments in U.S. theatre history arose with the conspicuous development of lesbian feminist theatre in New York City starting in the late 1970s. This theatre of social change, and its subsequent movement, were rooted in the groundbreaking work of the Women's One World Cafe, commonly known as WOW. From the 1960s through the 1980s, feminism had so drastically evolved from the 19th Century podiums of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony that it was dubbed "Second Wave Feminism." Commonly immortalized with images and ideas such as bra burning and the infamous sex wars, second wave feminists finally had a platform from which to address issues beyond merely suffrage and equality; they covered everything from the stereotypes of society to the realms of possibility beyond that of the household and the kitchen. "Unlike the first wave, second-wave feminism provoked extensive theoretical discussion about the origins of women's oppression, the nature of gender, and the role of the family" (Encyclopedia 2). Above all, the absence of agency for women across the board quickly moved to the forefront as a significant
Glasure 3 issue. Once articulated, the movement toward agency was able to guide the paths to which its goals were addressed, initiated, and then progressed. Thus, after decades of being objects in patriarchal culture without agency, women demanded free choice. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, the civil rights Act of 1964, and the term "sexism" itself were products of this noble fight. Encouraged by this legislation, women refused to sexualize themselves in the ways traditionally assumed by society. In this communal takedown of the patriarchy, however, many women were excluded. The feminist groups often represented white women who rejected non-heteronormativity. Along the way, they increasingly excluded those who did not mirror themselves, namely lesbians and women of color. These latter groupings were absent from representation, both in the movement and in the culture at large. This would change, however, for lesbians in a movement that would demand full equality for the entire spectrum of women both then and now. After all, every woman is worthy of focus, representation, and agency. In her 1991 book, The Feminist Spectator as Critic, Jill Dolan theorizes: Since the resurgence of American feminism in the 1960s, feminist theatre makers and critics have worked to expose the gender-specific nature of theatrical representation, and to radically modify its terms. Denaturalizing the position of the ideal spectator as a representative of the dominant culture enables the feminist critic to point out that every aspect of theatrical production, from the types of plays and performances produced to the texts that are ultimately canonized, is determined to reflect and perpetuate the ideal spectator's ideology. (1)
Glasure 4 As noted by Dolan, the most popularly represented theatre works of this time were even more exclusive than the movement itself. For example, `night, Mother by Marsha Norman was running on Broadway in 1983, less than a decade before Dolan's book, but during challenging years for second wave feminism due to the reactionary conservationism of President Reagan's policies. A female cast play written by a woman which focused on two women, a mother and daughter, Norman's play would seem to mark a triumph for feminists. In front of Broadway's commercial audience, however, the negative roles for women were still being represented. The show's protagonist, Jessie, announces early in her conversation with her mother that she will kill herself; she commits suicide by the end of the play. Thus, white women are represented among themselves, but they make decisions deeply influenced by their relationships with men who are not present on stage. Jessie's negative feelings toward herself are linked to her failed marriage and her troubled son. The lesbian feminist theatre movement, because of its exclusion from the larger part of second wave feminism, began to gradually appear in New York City around this time in the late 70s and early 80s, focusing exclusively on matters of gender and lesbian culture. "I am woman--hear me roar" apparently only applied if the woman did not subscribe to butch/femme gender roles or sadomasochism of any kind. A woman's behavior that could be identified as male in any way was shunned. Thus, lesbians were overlooked or even, at times, looked down upon by feminists. Holly Hughes, solo artist and activist, soon to be a prominent contributor to WOW, later stated that "what made somebody a lesbian, I was told, wasn't wanting to have sex with women . . . [for] if you admitted you wanted to have sex with women, you would be
Glasure 5 accused of being just like a man . . . . Apparently, sex was something lesbians used to do before they got politics and opened food co-ops" (Clit Notes 13). Amongst the rubble of this otherwise invisible, if not false representation of lesbians, a new budding platform of identity centered on work in Manhattan's East Village. Since the late 1970s, the WOW Cafe Theatre has long been an iconic and festering venue of social and political change. In the words of Kate Davy, author of what is considered the most thorough study of WOW, Lady Dicks and Lesbian Brothers: Staging the Unimaginable at the WOW Cafe Theatre, If achieving social change requires sustained collective action among culturally marginalized groups with varied political affinities, then the ways in which WOW has managed to negotiate the disparate worldviews, aesthetic sensibilities, and political perspectives endemic to a heterogeneous category like "women's theater" shed light on some crucial aspects of successful coalition building beyond theater. In ways alternately obvious and nuanced, WOW was and continues to be a place of cultural activism as well as a player in the extraordinary theater made possible by its existence. (4) WOW came about because four women--Pamela Camhe, Jordy Mark, Peggy Shaw, and Lois Weaver--identified a social problem which they knew was transformable. With contagious energy and work, they transformed the cultural bias towards lesbians, one production at a time. Lesbian feminism was a successful attempt to "valorize lesbianism," in the words of Kate Davy, giving power to both gender and consenting sadomasochism (56). Noted founder of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, spoke to the cooperative work of groups like
Glasure 6 WOW: "It remained for a stunningly efficacious coup of feminist redefinition to transform lesbianism, in a predominant view, from a matter of female virilization to one of woman-identification" (84). In this way, lesbian feminism freed women from the confining boundaries of the hated male-identification. WOW became not only a space for women to speak freely, but a venue for social and political change more relevant and substantive as a future model of collaboration than any other women's theatre space of the time. In 1979, fresh from the experience of a festival in Europe, Cahme, Mark, Shaw, and Weaver organized the first international women's festival of New York City, known as the Allied Farces, and reprised it the following year. Unexpectedly, the festivals reaped great success. The four pressed on to form the "women's community space" that soon became known as Women's One World Cafe (Davy 28). WOW was open to all, exclusive to none, and warmly embraced all participation. By simply attending a Tuesday night meeting, one became a member of WOW. By excluding membership fees and making the outlet as accessible as it remains to this day, like- minded women from all over New York City stormed the small East Village storefront space on 330 East 11th street between 1st and 2nd Avenues to speak their truth. Improvisation was encouraged, as everyone had something to say. Among the artists who initially performed at WOW were Jordi Mark, Pamela Camhe, Deb Margolin, and Split Britches. From the mid-1980s into the 1990s, a second generation of performers sought out a home at WOW, as they began collaborating with founders Shaw and Weaver. Among these artists were Holly Hughes, Carmelita Tropicana, Lisa Kron, and The Five Lesbian Brothers. With the primary intentions of having fun and serving artistic freedom, unscripted theatre at WOW was common in its early days. On this subject, the combination of both scripted theatre
Glasure 7 and unscripted theatre at WOW created the culture of possibility needed for its explosive later work to be freely expressed. The ideas for shows were fantastically new, and materials for sets or costumes were gathered from closets and street corners. Lesbians were still being perceived in popular culture as either butch or femme, with no potential to express the full spectrum of individualism. To challenge this stereotype, the structured forms utilized in WOW's productions were mainly non-realism. More importantly, however, a newly identified sector of the second wave feminist movement was born in this era--the sector known as lesbian feminism. Though of course this movement's beginnings are not specifically credited to Women's One World, the growth and definitions can certainly be marked in congruence with the work the women of WOW were doing at the time. In Elin Diamond's 1988 article, "Brechtian Theory/Feminist Theory: Toward a Gestic Feminist Criticism," the critic provides a useful theoretical lens through which to both read and view lesbian feminist theatre. Diamond argues that Brecht's A-effect, "Not, but," and Historicization are useful lenses to theorize the female body onstage, from patriarchal constructed, preconceived stereotype to feminist actualities of gender construction. She creates a new term for theatre-specific feminist criticism: "gestic criticism" (84). The A-effect takes its role in "alienating (not simply rejecting) iconicity, by foregrounding the expectation of resemblance, the ideology of gender is exposed and thrown back to the spectator (84). Here, gender is defined as "the words, gestures, appearances, ideas, and behavior that dominant culture understands as indices of feminine or masculine identity." Diamond describes the "not, but" as not "gender oppositions," but "differences within sexuality" (85). Here, the feminist critic draws from Brecht as she refers to the presence of everything the actor is trying not to do, but is visible
Glasure 8 to the spectator anyway. Thus, a woman onstage dressed as a man can be considered an example of mimicry, but not the mimesis of realism as defined during the 19th Century by Ibsen and Stanislavsky. The third point of explanation, historicization, essentially claims that current political realities must be contextually re-historicized in order for the audience to be less vulnerable to their emotions in favor of being distanced and analytical. Much of the lesbian and feminist theatre movements focused on putting a woman in the subject position with agency. Because the women of WOW realized the cultural view of lesbians was limited to either butch or femme, they used the form of non-realism to put a woman in the subject position. Non-realism provided the opportunity to step outside of culturally constructed gender binaries. In her 1993 essay, "Realism, Narrative, and the Feminist Playwright -- A Problem of Reception," Jeanie Forte argues that a realist play cannot be feminist, for a woman cannot believably be seen in the subject position. After all, U.S. culture-at-large remains patriarchal, which privileges male subjectivity. In the strictly limited genre of realism, a genre that adheres to mimesis, or imitation, a woman's agency is problematic. Like Diamond, Forte quotes Brecht: "The theatre as we know it [which he calls illusionism] shows the structure of society (represented on stage) as incapable of being influenced by society (in the auditorium)" (117). Forte argues, If feminism is a struggle against oppression, then is it really possible for feminist playwrights to communicate the workings of oppressive ideology within realistic narrative from within? Is the structure so powerful and deeply ingrained that to allow virtually any realistic elements constitutes a capitulation to dominant
Glasure 9 ideology? If so, then realism must be abandoned altogether in the search for a subversive practice. (119) Thus, through the lenses of both Diamond's and Forte's theses, theoretical perspectives that dismantle the dominance of imitative art, the work of WOW Cafe can be supported and challenged. One of the most prominent collectives of the 1980s and 90s to form out of WOW Cafe was Split Britches. A theatre group formed by Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver, and Deb Margolin, the influence of Split Britches extended far beyond WOW and continues to this day. In the words of the collective itself, "Since 1980 we have transformed the landscape of queer performance with our vaudevillian satirical gender-bending performance" (splitbritches.wordpress.com). Shaw, Weaver, and Margolin spent much time creating original work together. Since the formation of WOW simultaneously occurred with the rise of their collaboration, Split Britches was the unofficial resident company of WOW Cafe. Though everyone at WOW had technical equality, these women certainly could be called leaders in the establishment of WOW Cafe's identity during this early period. Split Britches set out specifically to alter the social and political landscape of the time, especially in the areas that considered gender politics and subject identity in representation. In their own words, We define ourselves, singly and collectively, as Independent Performance Artists who use live presence, multiple art disciplines, popular culture and any means imagined or necessary to communicate complicated ideas, to skew long-held beliefs, to challenge social and racial norms . . . and more often than not provide a political commentary. (Website)
Glasure 10 They performed at multiple venues across New York City, spreading their influence to any and all who would welcome them. They worked to establish and challenge the ideas of butch, femme, and queer identity. Sue Ellen Case, in Split Britches: Lesbian Practice/Feminist Performance, states that "the troupe created a unique 'postmodern' style that served to embed feminist and lesbian issues of the times, economic debates, national agendas, personal relationships, and sex-radical role playing in spectacular and humorous deconstructions of canonical texts, vaudeville shtick, cabaret forms, lip-synching satire, lyrical love scenes, and dark, frightening explorations of class and gender violence" (viii). The Split Britches Company, the inaugural power group of WOW Cafe, pulled their name from their first production in 1980: Split Britches: A True Story. The name itself describes "a garment worn [by women] in agricultural regions to facilitate peeing while standing" (Shaw 72). Hand in hand with the feminist movement's demand for equal agency between men and women, the Split Britches troupe made an interventionist statement with even their name. Rejecting the standard role of women as an other, both in politics and the theatre, Shaw, Margolin, and Weaver created their work that held their characters firmly in the subject position. In solidarity with the title, Split Britches: A True Story follows the interactions of three women--Emma Gay Gearhart, Della Mae Gearhart, and Cora Jane Gearhart--who are living on their own in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains during the late 1930s. All three characters are based on actual family members of Lois Weaver, who is credited with both the conception and direction of the play. The play utilizes the Brechtian techniques of historification, A-effect, and not/but, as posited by Elin Diamond as compatible techniques when staging feminist agency.
Glasure 11 The narrative begins with Cora, who enters wearing multiple layers of clothing and holds a hat and a pair of glasses in her hands. Played by Weaver, she then addresses the audience "not as Cora, but as herself, an actor, director, narrator. She offers the play to the audience" (Shaw 68). In this prelude, Weaver voices her desire to follow in the footsteps of fellow artists by "drawing from autobiographical material," and outlines the family history, her own historification, that led her to the play (Shaw 69). Throughout the piece, each of the characters take her turn as narrator. The difference between the action and narration is marked primarily in Weaver's carefully constructed dialogue utilizing the A-effect. After the initial introduction, Cora dons her hat and glasses, and then takes her place in the opening still. The play is marked by twenty-nine "slides." There are twenty-nine still stage pictures of the three characters in various positions, arranged to look like three-dimensional antique photographs. The slide positions are used to move the story along. They serve as visually marked plot points that historicize the facts of the family in the moment for the audience. Nearly half of the slides are introduced in the first few moments in order to establish both the characters and their functions within the family dynamic. As the piece progresses, the slides are used occasionally, until the final slide is put in place to close the show. The three women, though related, represent distinct personalities in order to create plenty of room for both disagreement and agreement. In doing so, at any given moment, the women experience the fluctuating dynamic between subject and object variations in this female cast play. Emma Gay is old, a bit whimsical, and "possibly senile" (68). Della Mae keeps the household in order with "feistiness, warmth and vengeance" (68). Cora Jane means well, but is "not quite right in the head" (68). The three of them are the "sole inhabitants of the Gearhart
Glasure 12 homeplace" (72). Della's constant ability to keep the farm going gives Emma plenty of room to forget her every train of thought, and compensates for Cora's slight mental retardation. In the first conversation-driven moments of the play, it is brought to the audience's attention that a man is attempting to buy Cora's land. To this, the women respond: DELLA: Land is money. EMMA: Wood. DELLA: Remember? EMMA: Money in the bank, wood is. (74) For three women living alone in the 1930s, the owning of land itself is an achievement. Land ownership is as traditionally American a representation of liberty as the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves. As much of the conversation in the play involves little of anything outside the homestead, the mention of a "he" who wants to steal the "not right in the head" woman's agency still highlights the constant struggle for a woman to maintain agency. Here, the "wood" discussed continues to be referred to throughout the piece, mainly as firewood. The wood, metaphorically, captures the elusive, yet insistent "he," a "he" who guarantees "money in the bank," but is soon "[chopped] . . . up for firewood" by Della Mae (74). Thus, the topics that move the play forward do not explicitly refer to "he," but are instead related to the daily chores of survival for these women, women who stand to pee. In giving women full reign as subjects, Split Britches blows open the doors for exploiting new gender roles, political statements, and ideas of agency. In Split Britches: A True Story, one of the most striking elements of the story, especially as produced in 1980, lies in the brute simplicity of Weaver's reimagined family history. A driving force that begins in this first foray and continues
Glasure 13 throughout the work of the Split Britches troupe is the reliance on character and relationship driven drama that embraces the seemingly mundane nature of the every day. In a Brechtian manner, Emma's, Cora's, and Della's interactions cover events that mainly occur offstage. Frequently, the troupe enacts a variation of Brechtian A-effect, just as it is when Weaver introduces the piece as herself, before assuming the character of Cora. Or when the cow is sick, the dialogue shifts to a squabble and then a song before returning back to the plot-spurring slides. After the multiple references to firewood, the play comes to a close with all three women discussing fire. "Fire ain't just a thing," says Della, "it's a person . . . Got a mind of its own." She continues, "I seen fires. I've felt them on my skin. I heard them cracklin' in my ear, even in the rain. Fires think. They got purposes" (94). The fire Della describes is a metaphor for the purpose with which the women of WOW approach the lesbian feminist movement. Della closes the play by summarizing this moment: "Do you know...by the time the men got there, there was nothin' left. It was burned right down to the ground. It's fire steals the land for real" (95). Thus, the men have no say in what goes down in the homestead of the agency-claiming women. Fire, or passion for a common cause, per se, is the driving force that truly grants a person freedom. From the collective theatre model Split Britches set in WOW Cafe, other all female groups appeared, including Spiderwoman.1 Likewise, solo performance artists proliferated. Of the solo performance artists of this time, Holly Hughes burst into the foreground with much acclaim. In her 1996 publication, Clit Notes, Hughes spiritedly outlines her career growth from childhood through prominence. Originally from Saginaw, Michigan, Holly moved to New York in 1979 two years after graduating from Kalamazoo College, and quickly stumbled upon the happenings at WOW. She was drawn to the Cafй's appreciation for and encouragement of
Glasure 14 improvisation. In her own words, she was finally able to "tell the stories [she] wanted to hear as a child, short on plot but full of magic" (18). She became involved in every production she could. Much of Holly Hughes's early work was based in satirical parody, another subform of non-realism that remains consistent with Forte's model. Hughes developed The Well of Horniness in 1984 as a satirical parody of Radcliffe Hall's infamous lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness. All three members of Split Britches were counted among the cast, as well as a young Lisa Kron and Carmelita Tropicana. In righteous indignance of the concept of modesty, Hughes marches her piece forward with raucous humor and blatantly recognizable innuendo, unapologetically embracing the language, or lesbian lack-thereof, of horniness. "If I really wanted to write about lesbian sexuality," she was told, "I shouldn't be using the vocabulary of male heterosexuality" (17). Horniness, it appeared, was only allotted to men. Hand in hand with the pro-woman feminism of the time, Holly's friends scoffed her idea. Hughes came to the understanding that "lesbian desire is a country without a language of its own" (17). She had two options, to "use the language of heterosexuality with all its distortions and erasures," or to "use the predominant lesbian . . . language of shame that trivialized desire" (18). Unsurprisingly, Hughes chose the former, but through parody. Early on, she recognized the need for such theatrical language if there was to be any semblance of change and the growing desire for lesbian subjectivity to be represented on stage. Hughes describes the "best thing" about The Well of Horniness as being "that [which] utterly lacks redeeming social value" (27). Though originally intending to create porn for men,2 Hughes "inadvertently created something for women: an opportunity for us to be silly and wear way too much makeup" (27). Importantly, and right on target with the lesbian theatre movement
Glasure 15 as a whole, Hughes concluded that "being silly is not the same as being funny, which contrary to popular belief, feminists have always been. But the humor that's come out of the women's movement and the lesbian community is always political; it's useful" (28). The efforts of the lesbian theatre movement not only promoted important and time-changing elements of political reference. They did something much more important; they gave women a reason to smile again. The Well of Horniness, as described on Theatre Mania, is "high-camp low-brow Sapphic murder mystery with one corpse, lusty lesbians, murderous dykes and mysterious women, in the cliff-hanging style of an old-time radio show" (1). Through such characters as Garnet McClit, the "seasoned sapphic flatfoot," Al Dente, the driven police chief, Margaret Dumont, and various inmates, waiters, and narrators, Hughes unabashedly chronicles, no less than bluntly, the formerly stilted horniness of all representatives of queer women, giving them permission to acknowledge as well as address that which previously had been hidden beneath the surface (Clit Notes, 45). The dramaturgy of the Split Britches: A True Story and The Well of Hornines are similar. Just as in Split Britches's play, Hughes's text interweaves narration with relationship-induced action in a tightly scripted and blocked dialogue. While Split Britches: A True Story breaks the idea of realism with its still slides, The Well of Horniness takes the non-realism form to a slightly more heightened level. Again, both works include consistent narration, yet instead of stills, the changes in Hughes's work are driven by technical changes, such as sound, movement, character, and costume. Throughout the piece, which was performed by a relatively small cast, there are over thirty costume changes for its many characters. Though the characters are male and female,
Glasure 16 Hughes insisted that each character must be played by a woman in order to secure her original intention that women maintain the subject position with agency in her play. In this sense, Hughes was highlighting and furthering a very similar fire as Split Britches. She was unabashedly situating women in the subject position and demanding, through satirical parody, a truthful representation of the need for female agency, even if it used the vocabulary of the heterosexual world. Hughes went on to write and perform several other pieces for WOW, and she continues to write and perform to this day. About her 1988 Dress Suits to Hire, "a heated game of erotic cat and mouse between Deeluxe (Ms. Shaw) and Michigan (Ms. Weaver), two women who live a cloistered life in a rental-clothing store on Second Avenue," the New York Times describes Hughes's work as "portraying female sexuality, and lesbian seduction in particular, as a carnivorous free-for-all [in which] it scrapes away decades of encrusted decorum from a subject that is too often treated with a hushed sentimentality" (Holden 1). A recent production of The Well of Horniness was staged in part with a 2013 performance of Holly's at the University of Michigan, where she is a professor of Art and Design, carrying on her convention-breaking work to the next generation of theatre-makers and audiences outside of New York City. Perhaps the most valuable contribution of Hughes's work lies in the coalescence of her teaching and continued performance; she is not merely restating history, but continuing to move both her students and herself forward with what remains relevant today. Ten years after The Well of Horniness premiered, Holly Hughes had found a career in her monologue-driven solo work. Her 1994 masterpiece, Clit Notes, was the self-proclaimed effort of a "political artist" (184). Casting aside the wild costume changes, multiple cast members, and
Glasure 17 brazen plot points, the set is a simple "ten foot square of diagonal yellow and black stripes" and "a small wooden school chair" (184). The only costume piece is "a red dress," and Hughes makes it clear that the piece should "under no circumstances . . . be attempted in anything other than a red dress!" (185). The blocking, the flow of the language, and the fluid storytelling are simple. The performance itself is heartfelt and sincere, in true fashion with the original impromptu theatre exploration nights of WOW's inaugural years. The element so well refined in these ten years of scripted work, however, is Holly's humour. This sense of irony, present in Holly Hughes's work, the work of Split Britches, and much of the work coming out of WOW would prove to keep women laughing while maintaining their feminist struggle for agency. Due to the nature of solo work, Clit Notes could be considered narration. Just as in Split Britches: A True Story and The Well of Horniness, the story moves forward by merit of the narrator. In Clit Notes, which is an autobiographical solo piece, Hughes trades the still images of Split Britches with the graceful connection of spoken memory. The story is driven by Hughes's first memories of societally repressed love for women in Saginaw, Michigan. The topics flow between her childhood, her father's illness, her forays into performance art, her mother, bodies, and her current musings into the life of a contemporary lesbian. Unsurprisingly, she rebirths the concept of fire, which resonates with the work of Split Britches. "Once I asked my father what fire was, a liquid, a gas, or a solid, and he said it wasn't any of those things. Fire isn't a thing; it's what happens to things. A force of nature. That's what he called it" (204). While this statement is applied in reference to Hughes's relationship with her girlfriend, the metaphor of fire as passion is rekindled. Just as it was the passion of women that drove the feminist movement forward, so it was the passion of women that propelled the lesbian theatre
Glasure 18 movement forward. Simultaneously yet dissonant, the fire that ignited a new subject position out of the ashes of former otherness created a space for lesbians to move inside and outside the evolving politics of feminism. What was always clear is that lesbians were empowered through feminism, but that lesbians did not always see the centrality of their identity politics as central to feminist goals. This fact created the urgency for the lesbian community to continue and deepen its own agenda, concurrently with a still heterosexist-biased mainstream feminist movement. The humor of Hughes's piece continues the tradition of keeping women laughing. The fire Hughes is fueling, however, has equal moments of humor and heaviness. The struggle for agency, while maintaining its vengeance on the surface, takes its prisoners from the inside out. As Hughes concludes, There is a war going on. All of us have been hit. Some of us worse than others. (Pause.) Don't you hate it when people ask you why you are what you are? (208) Hughes again brings up the lack of lesbian-specific language, even ten years after conversations about the same topic while writing Well of Horniness, remarking, "You can only see what you want to see . . . . They start translating us into their reality" (208). In Clit Notes, she speaks of the moment she and her girlfriend made out in public, noticing that those around her were uncomfortable, but wordless. "They don't have any words for us, so they can't see us, so we're safe, right?" (208). Yet the safety of ignorance cannot coalesce with the passionate political fire. "I forget that invisibility does not ensure safety. We're not safe. We're never safe, we're just . . .
Glasure 19 . You tell me" (208). With this appeal to the audience, Clit Notes concludes. An audience has been created over the decade and a half since WOW staked its storefront claim, but the audience remains a company of New Yorkers. Thus, the gradual shift of the audience can come only from starting a "fire" in other places around the US. As has been said continually by the WOW Cafeites, fire has a tendency to spread. As the movement continued to grow, the next generation of lesbian theatre-makers created the widely and wildly acclaimed theatre collective of 1989, the Five Lesbian Brothers. The group, founded by Lisa Kron, Maureen Angelos, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Babs Davy, addressed a new generation of gender politics. Inspired by the collective influence of Split Britches, the Brothers found their roots at WOW Cafe. Fusing sexuality with desire, they took on the role of addressing that which the feminism of the time refused to address, and managed to do it all with a humorous sense of irony. In the introduction to Four Plays, the 2000 Brothers' anthology, mentor Holly Hughes describes the group's work as a fine example of good lesbian theatre. Their body of work, Hughes comments, is easily read as "real theatre," regardless of the fact that it "was made in a community far off the cultural radar screen, in cooperative spaces that flourished without funding, using methods and techniques that came out of second-wave feminism rather than an MFA program" (xi). The Secretaries, a 1993 work by The Five Lesbian Brothers, was written in response to the rape-promoting musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In the preface to The Secretaries, all five brothers describe their processes in the work's development (Angelos 118-19). With initial intentions to be lumberjacks, the brothers instead played both lumberjacks and secretaries in a saw mill. Playing with the boundaries of gender and stereotype, the brothers theatrically
Glasure 20 murdered society's expectations of what a lesbian should be, and managed to satirically represent the cruelty of women towards each other. According to Diamond, The body, particularly the female body, by virtue of entering the stage space, enters representation--it is not just here, a live, unmediated presence, but rather (1) a signifying element in a dramatic fiction; (2) a part of a theatrical sign system whose conventions of gesturing, voicing and impersonating are referents for both performer and audience; and (3) a sign in a system governed by a particular apparatus, usually owned and operated by men for the pleasure of a viewing public whose major wage earners are male. (89) The Brothers placed the female body onstage, but did not adhere to traditional representation. Instead, through mimicry, the five women represented both male and female characters. The show opens with darkness, sounding a chainsaw followed a man's scream, surrounded by what is referred to as "clicking and giggling . . . a secret secretarial language made up of rapid chipmunk-like clicking, sucking and popping sounds made with the tongue, intermingled with giggling" (125). This secret language is supplemented throughout the play with talk of salad, workouts, and Slim Fast. Critic Peggy Phelan, notes The Brothers' ability to "illuminate the ways in which heterosexual culture creates lesbian worlds, even while it continually disavows that such worlds exist at all. The Secretaries, perhaps the most accomplished of The Brothers' plays, examines the secretarial pool as an all-women's community" (xiv). The secret language begins to illuminate The Brother's acknowledgement of a language all women seem to know that is beyond male comprehension. This language serves as a linguistic idiom that establishes a difference between women's and men's subjectivity.
Glasure 21 Every month, the secretaries kill a man, as supported by the chainsaw sounds and giggling. Phelan argues that by "ritualistically killing a man each month, The Brothers stage a horror film in order to expose the deeper horror of how commonplace the killing of women in film and everyday life has become" (xv). The theatrical murder is supported by the violent way in which the secretaries speak to each other, constantly making friendly insults in support of the secret language, yet passive aggressively defining each other's agency by their weight, gym attendance, and office efficiency. Patty Johnson, "the new girl" who is played by Dominique Dibbell, spends the better part of the play "trying to decode [the] clicking and giggling language" (165). Well-meaning, Patty falls in love with two separate characters: Dawn Midnight and Buzz Benikee. The genius of The Brothers' political statement supports itself with the fact that Maureen Angelos, through the use of mimicry, played both characters. Patty sees her relationship with Buzz as appropriate, yet questions her relationship with Dawn. In Scene Fourteen, Dawn has brought Patty to the Hollyhock Hideaway Hotel, or HHH. Being brought to the HHH for a "massage," Patty pulls away when Dawn kisses her: PATTY: Dawn! My god! What are you doing? I mean, I'm sorry, Dawn. I'm not that way. I guess I didn't make that clear. DAWN: No, no. You made it clear. You like lumberjacks. PATTY: Yes. I guess I do. I like Buzz. DAWN: Buzz is a nice guy. A super nice guy. PATTY: Yes he is.
Glasure 22 Because Maureen Angelos is playing her female character, but speaking of the male character she mimics in other scenes, a deep level of female agency is claimed onstage through the bodily representation of which Diamond speaks. The gender is unfixed in these moments. At the end of the scene, the stage directions state that "Patty pulls Dawn on top of her" before the lights fade. Though she claims to have a thing for lumberjacks, the gender becomes insignificant.3 Patty always falls in love with the same sexed body regardless of its performance of gender. In this way, the agency of a body onstage is challenged. The Brothers present gender play in a way that allows the audience to view a male character, albeit through mimicry, and a female character with an equal amount of agency through body representation of the actress. At the end of the play, Patty assists in the murder of Buzz, theatrically murdering the patriarchy in pursuit of a secret language that she's finally beginning to understand. In making the actions of the play extremely farsical, Peggy Phelan argues for it seriousness as the spectator is shown "the apparent bottomlessness of routine cultural misogyny, a hatred that thrives not only on violence against women (a fact we know quite well, even if our knowledge seems to inspire only passivity) but that, perhaps even more darkly, also sustains violence against women" (xv). This theatricality only works based on any given spectator's reception. When the play was performed for an audience of lesbians in San Francisco, much of the audience left, offended, having what Lisa Kron called "no sense of irony" (Kron Interview). Unlike their predecessors at WOW, The Brothers broke into a larger audience pool in New York City. They performed their Oedipus at Palm Springs in New York Theatre Workshop's 2005 season. The ability to move from a space like WOW to an Off-Broadway theatre space such as New York Theatre Workshop is highly dependent on funding, however. It is well-known that
Glasure 23 New York's downtown theatre runs on a small budget significantly different than that of the commercial theatres of Brodway's Great White Way. In the 1970s when the Allied Farces held the first festivals, the mad rush to pull the creations together left no time for grant application. Instead, Cahme, Mark, Shaw, and Weaver used volunteers, donated spaces, and wild fundraising parties to raise enough money to get the theatre on its feet. The space used for both the festivals and early performances, The Allcraft Center on St. Marks Place, was free until a show put up by the women was "too sexy for the Center," and the small group found the space padlocked (Solomon 93). Having enough of a budget at this point, and ready to create the earliest form of WOW, the women rented the inaugural 11th Street space. Over the years, the slight profits increased and the use of grants became integral. These grants applied to both the WOW Cafe itself and many of the performance artists involved. The National Endowment for the Arts was a primary source of these grants.4 WOW's identity based itself on these women artists committed to the representation of women, and lesbians in particular, as subjects with full agency. The Cafe was set up to be Women for Women in a way that had never been previously introduced--a space that was in, by, and specifically for the lesbian community. Over the years, what had been known as the edge began to move away from the edge toward the center of women-identified performance. This opened up the doors for the movement not only to spread, but indulge more deeply in the representation of the full spectrum of lesbianism. Though the work of performance artists was also extremely effective, WOW reintroduced collective-based theatre in a revolutionary way. Split Britches, and then The Five Lesbian brothers primarily led the way for the evolution of collective-based theatre. Lesbian feminism allowed not only the women of WOW Cafe, but
Glasure 24 lesbians everywhere, to identify proudly as lesbians who were feminists, or as feminists who were lesbians. The need for change, the need for a space of their own, and the pressing desire to speak in the ways they needed to speak opened the doors for WOW to develop into a kind of institution beyond itself: it was a foundational site that granted a new permission not only for the theatre, but for redefining the identity and sociality beyond formerly exclusive gender politics. The women of WOW, Split Britches, Holly Hughes, and the Five Lesbian Brothers, and the countless others grass-rooted into this movement brought a new aspect to political theatre in New York City as well as across the country--one based on anyone's right to acquire agency, to exercise free will, and to occupy the subject position. Collectively, their work can also be considered political performance art. Because of the nature of constant change in the realm of socioeconomics, the malleable world of performance art seemed of better use to artists. Because they defined specifically their artistic desire to give women equal agency and served their creativity above all, their ability to make space on the cultural map was highly effective. This can be credited at least partially to the fact that many of these artists had backgrounds not in traditional theatre training, but in visual art. Their collective skills were based in the communal need for change in representation instead of a communal need for traditional theatre itself. Though gentrification and continually upwardly quantifying rents have pushed many of the artists out of their East Village residences, WOW Cafe continues to exist at its second location on East Fourth Street. Known as Fourth Arts Block, East Fourth has managed to hold onto its cutting edge and consistently boundary-questioning theatre spaces. It is the home to "more than a doZen Arts groups, 10 cultural facilities and 17 performances and rehearsal venues . . . [and] attracts an annual audience of 250,000, serves 1,500 artists and provides more square
Glasure 25 feet of active cultural use than any other block in New York" ("Fourth Arts" 1). Many productions are still staged at WOW throughout the month, yet the `by women, for women' ideal seemingly evolved into `by queer people, for queer people.' In February 2014, I attended a production of Merwif at WOW. The show was self-described as being "a series of visitations from imagined aquatic mythologies. Merwif empowers us to honor the unknown, our sexuality, our spiritual lives and our relationship with the earth" (Merwif 1). Having only six performances and limiting the audience to sixteen people for each, the production was intimate and poignant. Upon entrance to WOW's historical space, I noted a few couches, chairs, and risers that were arranged a la Dixon Place, creating an intimate and immediately stranger-friendly environment. Original music, composed by the mermaids, was playing over the loudspeakers. On the evening of my attendance, five men were present, and only three women if not including the crew. The show was introduced by a passionate house manager who described WOW as home, briefly outlining the history of the space for those who may not know. Then, the bar closed, the lights went down, and the performance began. Clearly and specifically identified by choice of mermaid attire, one man and one woman entered the space in costume. Over and over, in slightly dissonant harmony, they sang, "Why would you want to change your body." The performance as a whole included much singing such as this, some with text and some with only sound, multiple counts of disrobing and recostuming, video projections of the mermaids in the water, and the rape of the female mermaid that ended in a seemingly happy merbaby that was passed throughout the audience.
Glasure 26 After much research on the original and specifically directed, yet perhaps not always pre-designed work of WOW, I've found that the contents of the current shows scheduled at WOW, including Merwif, are a surprise. Contrary to my assumptions, much of the performance material today centers on the concept of queer theatre, or non-normative performance, as a whole versus that of simply lesbian theatre.5 Instead of `by women, for women,' the performance opportunities accommodate the idea of `by queer people, for queer people.' The productions, however, are still written and directed entirely by women. For example, an upcoming show in 2014 entitled HyperGender Burlesque Cabaret is described on WOW's website as being "what NYC is about: queerness, glitter and worship of all things different!" (1). The earlier lesbian feminist movement that was foundational to WOW seems to have shifted to a full spectrum of acceptance that is inclusive of men, contrary to the male-excluding feminist efforts of 1980s women's theatre. The queer-centric, all gender-expressive inclusion of today's movement can be further supported by the continued body of work by and for queer women that is present in popular culture and online. The plethora of queer female entertainers continues to grow in non-live theatre performance. Women such as Ellen Degeneres, Ellen Page, Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan, and Amber Heard have openly identified as lesbian, bisexual or queer. Shows such as The L Word, The Real L Word, the recently and continually growing Orange is the New Black, Glee, Chicago Fire, Once Upon a Time, Grey's Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, and Orphan Black have all openly displayed the relationships and preferences of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. Films such as The Hangover, Kissing Jessica Stein, But I'm a Cheerleader, Sex and the City 2, Fried Green Tomatoes, Sunshine Cleaning, V for Vendetta, Across the Universe, and Blue
Glasure 27 is the Warmest Color have done the same. This extensive list does not even begin to cover the broad expanse of openly available material, including the explosive amount in the form of small-scale web series on the internet. Perhaps the most positive impact of many of these shows and films is that lesbian and bisexual characters are beginning to be perceived with their sexuality as a given circumstance instead of a problem to be addressed. For example, the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black (2013-) has taken its audience by storm. Widely argued as potentially the best lesbian series ever made, the show portrays lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women of every race, size, age, and social class. Created by Weeds' Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black centers around the imprisonment of Piper Chapman, a WASPy, trust-funded blond girl who begins the premier episode with her stereotypical male fiance and disappointed family. A long-hidden lesbian relationship from several years before surfaces when Piper's former lover, Alex, accuses her of having been an accomplice to her International Drug Ring. This being true, Piper tells her fiance and her family of her crime for which she is sentenced to spend one year in a federal women's prison. Alex, it turns out, is in the same prison. Naturally, throughout the course of the season, Piper and Alex's relationship is rekindled and dampened. In addition, multiple lesbian relationships explicitly take place within the prison walls, some openly and others secretive, some with conventionally "attractive" TV women, and many others with women of all shapes and sizes. The prison rules are presented in a different world than that of the non-incarcerated, constantly contrasted by visits and flashbacks from the "Outside World." The roles of butch and femme, however, are still very much present and clear within the society. The women are not limited to these roles, and many exist outside of the
Glasure 28 butch/femme stereotypes that the women of Split Britches challenged in their day. Most importantly, none of these relationships are challenged as abnormal or unnatural for being lesbian; instead, the challenges arise from the people themselves, their situations, and their sexuality. In this way, representation that was once only presented on the fringe has made its way to the forefront, opening the doors to a much more widely accepted and unquestioned view of all that is queer. The most-striking, recent example of the fringe moving to the forefront is Fun Home, book and lyrics written by Lesbian Brother Lisa Kron, first performed Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in Fall of 2013, and recently contracted to move to Broadway in the Spring 2015 season. Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, Fun Home focuses on the character Alison's story of her relationship from childhood to present with her closeted gay father. In the musical, Alison is depicted at three separate ages, all interacting with one another throughout the piece: Alison - 43 years old, a cartoonist Medium Alison - 19 years old, a college freshman Small Alison - around 8 years old (Kron, Fun Home i) Kron describes the work as a true memory play, but reminds that reader that "it is important to note that the past always understands itself to be the present and every character is moving earnestly forward at all times into an unknown and unknowable future. This is equally true for Alison, for whom looking back is an active journey forward" (Kron, Fun Home i). The story takes place in in the Bechdel Family Funeral Home, the "fun home" itself. Bruce Bechdel, Alison's father, has spent his entire life in Keystone, the Pennsylvania town
Glasure 29 where small Alison is grows up. Medium Alison, a freshman in college, realizes that she is a lesbian, or a dyke, as her girlfriend Joan says, shortly upon arrival to college. She describes the events of her life that make sense upon coming to this realization. One of these descriptions, the song "Ring of Keys", is sung by Small Alison when a delivery women who "was an old-school butch" arrives at the door with a package. When asked to write the song initially, Kron refused, saying a song about a butch lesbian would be ridiculed. "Butch," she said, "can only be seen as an object of desire, or a joke" (Kron Interview). Due to her careful wording, however, this did not happen, and instead the encounter was perceived as a touching part of Small Alison's development. For the lesbian feminist theatre movement, the significance of the play comes from the main character, a lesbian, situated in the subject position with the ultimate level of agency. Furthermore, she speaks for herself in forward-moving memory at three different points in her life. Primarily through the use of song lyrics, the inner life of Alison is revealed both touchingly and powerfully. The opening song, "It All Comes Back", is a trio with Small Alison, Alison, and Bruce. Bruce and Alison, in unison, sing: I want to know what's true dig deep into who, and what and why and when until now gives way to then. (3) Alison, sorting through the annals of her memory at 43, is represented as experiencing the same desire as the Bruce of her childhood. Bruce is depicted as having spent much of his adult life
Glasure 30 wanting to express the truth of his inner self, yet he never does. Alison, on the other hand, expresses the truth of her inner self through her cartoons: ALISON: Caption: My dad and I were exactly alike. SMALL ALISON: I see everything! ALISON: Caption: My dad and I were nothing alike. (4) In the act of recalling the memory of her father, the character of Alison has agency over the character of Bruce. Bruce's agency is determined through Alison's memory of him. Furthermore, Alison has agency over both Small Alison and Medium Alison, making the entire play a product of her fully represented agency. During a critical point of her maturation and independence, Medium Alison writes a letter to her parents identifying herself as a lesbian to them for the first time. In response, Bruce diminishes her letter to "a flair for the dramatic," telling Medium Alison that he's "of the opinion that everyone should experiment," but he is not of the opinion that one should label oneself. Medium Alison brings her girlfriend, Joan, home to meet her parents, and soon thereafter she goes for a drive with her dad. In the song "Telephone Wire," Medium Alison's thoughts are presented to the spectator in song: ALISON: This is where it has to happen There must be some other chances There's a moment I'm forgetting where you tell me you see me Say something! Talk to me Say something!
Glasure 31 Anything At the light At the light Alison wants to express to her father that they are "exactly alike" in this moment, but instead, they are both silent (4). Bruce, never being able to reveal that he's gay, though the fact is known by both Alison and her mother, is unable to speak to his daughter in this crucial moment. The drive ends before either Bruce or Medium Alison say anything, and it is immortalized as Alison's last night with her father. Bruce, in "Edges of the World," fails in an attempted last letter to his daughter. He tries to formulate the words he needs to tell Medium Alison that they are "exactly alike," but is unable to do so (4). Feeling that nothing can change, he commits suicide by standing in front of a truck on the highway. The memory musical ends with the finale, "Flying Away." Alison closes the show saying, "caption: Every so often there was a rare moment of perfect balance when I soared above him" (78). Alison was able to come out to her family and reveal her inner truth in a way that her father never could, giving herself a freedom that her father never experienced. In noteworthy opposition to Marsha Norman's `night, Mother, the suicide at the end of Fun Home does not strip the title female character of her agency. Though recalling the memory of her father is undeniably painful, Alison assumes total agency in her closing line. What is it that allows a story such as Alison's not only to be told commercially, but become "the most critically acclaimed musical of the New York theater season" with intentions to move to Broadway (Krulwich 1)? Kron explains the acceptance in terms of the artist's constant work in regards to culture. "Culture is a map of humanity. The artist's job is to identify
Glasure 32 worlds that aren't on the map yet" (Kron Interview). The identified world has to fit into popular culture. The spectators will only be available to experience representation they are familiar with and ready to make a place for. At this point, there is a place in this culture map to put Fun Home. As a memory play and musical, Fun Home is not fourth wall realism addressed twenty years ago by which Jeanie Forte as a resistant structure to feminist agency. Also, there is no mimicry happening in the work (especially as it relates to sexed bodies and gender). For the actors representing the characters, they do not assume any representations other than themselves. They create characters from their own experience. In this way, the musical certainly contains scenes in which mimetic realism is present. What the audience was not prepared for, however, was to accept a lesbian outside of the known stereotypes of butch or femme. While there is a place culturally to put Fun Home, there is not a place to put a lesbian with total agency who is fully reflective of humanity. One of Kron's greatest frustrations in the reception of the play was a common audience response of congratulating her on not making the entire work a story about a lesbian. Fun Home, some remarked, was more universal than just a story about a lesbian. Kron countered this, however, by saying that "the story is exactly as big as a story about a lesbian" (Kron Interview). The audience was unprepared to accept a lesbian character as capable of having the human range necessary to experience a story so largely moving and relatable. This is due to the lack of place on the cultural map in live performance for a lesbian outside of the stereotypically understood landscape. "Culture is a map of humanity. The artist's job is to identify worlds that aren't put on the map yet" (Kron Interview). In the late 1970s, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver identified the world of lesbian theatrical representation that had no place on the U.S. cultural map, but was existing in
Glasure 33 the solar system of international theatre festivals. They created Woman's One World Cafe in New York City as an effort to give lesbians an opportunity to exist outside of the exclusive world of second wave feminism. At WOW, lesbians were always in the subject position, always had agency, and were always primarily focused on serving their imagination, creativity, and theatrical delight. In the words of Lisa Kron, the "ultimate political power of WOW is that we were serving our sense of creativity" (Kron Interview). It was the nature of this creative focus and openness to experiment that allowed WOW to become a festering agent of cultural change. The Split Britches group, Holly Hughes, the Five Lesbian Brothers, and Lisa Kron all found their roots at WOW, and continued to let their influence grow, infiltrating and shaping not only the culture of New York City, but every area to which they taught, performed, or spoke. At the end of Split Britches, Della says "I seen fires. I've felt them on my skin. I heard them cracklin' in my ear, even in the rain. Fires think. They got purposes" (94). The main component of fire is that it spreads, gradually at first, but soon with wild, unrestricted hunger. In 1993, Jeanie Forte was correct to argue that a realist play cannot be feminist, for a woman cannot believably be seen in the subject position. Twenty-one years later, a few short of the number of still portraits in Split Britches, women can be believably seen in the subject position. Though Fun Home is not within the strict bounds of realism due to its music and memory constructions, its scenic acting breakdown is mimetic. The scenes in the play happen realistically, creating a hybrid form of feminist mimesis that had yet to be seen in the commercial market. A lesbian is given full representative agency in the subject position. She is fully
Glasure 34 representative of the spectrum of humanity without the use of mimicry. Instead, her mimesis is indicative of the continually growing place on the cultural map for lesbian theatre. As the fire continues to spread, the next generation of lesbian feminists will identify or create original openings on the cultural map.6 Over 30 years ago at WOW Cafe, women were laughing again. Almost forty years later at the Public Theatre during the run of Fun Home, women and men alike could cry unironically, finally capable of accepting the reality of a lesbian woman in the subject position on the U.S. stage, one who is fully representative of human agency, telling her story exactly as big as a lesbian. Notes 1. Spiderwoman Theatre Company "sprang out of the feminist movement of the 1970s and the disillusionment with the treatment of women in radical political movements of the time." Formed of Miriel Miguel, her sisters, and a diverse group of other women, Spiderwoman "questioned gender roles, cultural stereotypes, and sexual and economic oppression. They took on issues of sexism, racism, classism, and the violence in women's lives." They have since continued to produce work as well as teaching the next generation of students, and are credited with founding the indigenous theatre movement in the United States ("Mission" 1).
Glasure 35 2. As she outlines in Clit Notes, Hughes "found [herself] bragging to a couple of women at WOW" that she had experience writing pornography. They "promised to produce" the "screenplay for a lesbian porn movie" that Hughes had agreed to write (16). 3. See Butler for a discussion of the social, fixed construction of gender, which, in fact, is fluid and not intrinsically confined to any one sexed body. 4. In 1990, a conflict with the National Endowment for the Arts involving Karen Finley, Tim Miller, Holly Hughes, and John Fleck, more commonly referred to as NEA 4, shocked the community. These four performance artists, previously receiving funding from the NEA for their work, lost all funding when their grants were vetoed by NEA chairman John Frohnmayer. After a Peer Review process, the subject matters of Finley's, Miller's, Hughes's, and Flecks's material were considered inappropriate. Though they won the lower court case in 1993 and received the grant money in question, the case eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, and prompted a move by Congress that would eliminate all future funding for individual artists. Unquestioningly, this was a brutal hit for performance artists of the time, and many of them took long breaks from their work. It is also extremely relevant to note that three of these four performance artists self-identified as queer. 5. The phrase "queer theatre" is used in reference to Jose Munoz's definition in Cruising Utopia: "Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness's
Glasure 36 domain. Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the present" (1). 6. Along Hughes's professorship at the University of Michigan, Weaver is a Professor of contemporary performance in the Drama Department of Queen Mary, University of London, and Deb Margolin is in the Theatre Studies Program at Yale. Like Peggy Shaw, each of these women continue to produce one woman shows in New York City, and continue to write. They are currently fostering the next generation of theatre-makers in colleges. This allows not only for the continuation of the movement, but for the evolution of the lesbian feminist theatre movement through the experiences of generations to come. Works Cited Angelos, Maureen, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, Babs Davy, and Lisa Kron. Five Lesbian Brothers/Four Plays. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2000. Print. Butler, Judith. "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory." Theatre Journal 40.4 (1988): 519-53. Web.
Glasure 37 Case, Sue-Ellen. Split Britches: Lesbian Practice/feminist Performance. London: Routledge, 1996. Print. Davy, Kate. Lady Dicks and Lesbian Brothers: Staging the Unimaginable at the WOW Cafй Theatre. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2010. Print. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. "Fourth Arts Block - About FAB." Fourth Arts Block - About FAB. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. Healy, Patrick. "Moving Your Show to Broadway? Not So Fast." The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 May 2014. Web. Holden, Stephen. "Theater: 'Dress Suits'" The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Feb. 1988. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. Hughes, Holly. Clit Notes: A Sapphic Sampler. New York: Grove, 1996. Print. ___________. 1955 Mar. 10-. The Well of Horniness. S.l.: S.n., 1983. Print. Kron, Lisa. Fun Home. 2014. Unpublished mss. New York City. _________. Telephone Interview with Abbey Glasure. 09 May 2014. "Merwif @ WOW." - Conectom. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. "Mission." Spiderwoman Theater. N.p., n.d. Web. Muсoz, Josй Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York UP, 2009. Print. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: U of California, 1990. Print. Shaw, Peggy, Lois Weaver, and Deb Margolin. Split Britches. N.p.: Split Britches, 1982. Print. Solomon, Alisa. "The WOW Cafe." The Drama Review Spring 1985 29.1 (1985): 92-101. Web.
Glasure 38 "The Well of Horniness by Holly Hughes - Where Women Are Women And So Are The Men Tickets, News and Information | Provincetown Fringe Festival at the Provincetown Inn, Boston, MA." Theatermania. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. "WOW Cafe Theatre: 33 Years!" WOW Cafe Theatre: 33 Years! N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

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