Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Performance Art/Theater 2004

Peggy Shaw

A portrait of Peggy Shaw with short brown hair wearing a black suit and tie. She stands in front of a dark wall with turqouise projections of small squares on it. Each square has a small dot cut out from its middle and projects rays of light behind it.
  • 2004 Grants to Artists
  • Performance Art/Theater
  • Writer, Performer, Teacher
  • Born Belmont, MA, 1944
  • Lives in New York, NY
  • Additional Information

Basically, the grant money, besides putting me on paper... has honored me with the company of amazing artists, and has given me a float, something to go on, a buffer.

- Peggy Shaw, August 14, 2006

Artist Statement

In my art, I have been trying to describe the world that I have created while creating it. Never accepting the confines of the "normal" North American world, I make performance and theater, for those interested in hearing the poetry or point of view of a 60 plus year old, second generation Irish, working class, grand butch mother. I have been described as masculine. Actually I am a new kind of femininity. I am interested in testing masculine-feminine and butch-femme as markers. I want to go way beyond the boundaries of the girls room and the boys room. I see endless horizons and new ways of creating and defining ourselves on this difficult greedy planet which is weighted and distributed so heavily toward the white heterosexual masculine. It has seemed, at some points in my time here, that this planet wants to tip off its axis and spill all that bull shit into the black hole and start again. This particular political time is even darker than usual with few visionaries to altar the course. To me being an artist is paying very close attention to our surroundings and having the privilege of twisting the mirror in order to reflect new images back on the culture. I get up every day and do the best I can to create and teach new visions not old ideas.

- 2006


Peggy Shaw is a performer, writer, and producer. Shaw has also been a collaborator, writer, and performer with Spiderwoman Theater and Hot Peaches Theater. She co-founded the Split Britches Theater Company with Lois Weaver.

Shaw's works with Split Britches include Beauty and the Beast (1982), Upwardly Mobile Home (1984), Dress Suits for Hire (1987), Little Women: The Tragedy (1988), Anniversary Waltz (1990), Belle Reprieve (1990), Lesbians Who Kill (1992), You're Just Like My Father (1993), Lust and Comfort (1994), Menopausal Gentleman 1996), Salad of the Bad Café (1999-2000), It's a Small House and We Lived in it Always (1999), Miss Risqué (2001), and To My Chagrin (2003).

With funds from her 2004 Grants to Artists award, Shaw worked on Miss America (2008). Shaw and Weaver were associate artists on the Clod Ensembles' Performing Medicine project, which created workshops on gender and difference for medical students and health professionals. As part of this project Shaw created MUST: The Inside Story (2007) in collaboration with The Clod Ensemble. This piece poetically examines the inside of her aging queer body, and she performed and toured it in lecture and anatomy theaters. Following this work, Split Britches received a commissioning grant from Dixon Place to perform their new piece Lost Lounge (2009) in New York City. After suffering a stroke, Shaw created a solo show entitled Ruff based on the experience and its aftermath. Ruff was presented by Dixon Place as part of Performance Space 122's COIL festival in 2013.

Subsequent to her 2004 FCA grant, Shaw was honored with the Performance Space 122 Ethyl Eichelberger Award (2011) and a Doris Duke Artist Award (2014). Prior to her 2004 Grants to Artists award, Shaw had been given the Anderson Foundation Stonewall Award for "excellence in making the world a better place for gays and lesbians" (1995), New York Foundation for the Arts Awards for Emerging Forms (1988, 1995, 1999), and an Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theatre (2003). For her work with Split Britches, Shaw received three Obie Awards for performances in Dress Suits To Hire (1987), Belle Reprieve (1990), and Menopausal Gentleman (1996).

Michigan Press published a book on Shaw titled A Menopausal Gentleman (2011), edited by Jill Dolan, which includes the scripts for her three solo shows You're Just Like My FatherMenopausal Gentleman, and To My Chagrin; and MUST: The Inside Story.

Shaw is a freelance teacher of writing and performance. She co-founded the WOW Café Theatre, a year-round festival of women's and transgender people's performance.

Excerpts from Ruff, 2013.
A black and white image of a performer wearing a thick fur coat and a plastic tiara, looking concerned and standing in the middle of a bare room. They wrap their arms across their chest to close the coat and look directly at viewers. The walls behind them are covered in peeling white paint. They are in a small room with openings for a window and an entryway.
Performance still from FCPA-supported Miss America, 2008.
Two performers stand in front of a wall covered in peeling white paint. Peggy Shaw stands on the left. She has short brown hair and wears an all black suit. She holds a plastic silver and pink tiara at her waist. On the right of the image there is an older person sitting down. They have a black bob hairstyle and wear a black top, a pearl necklace, a thick fur coat and red lipstick.
Performance still from FCPA-supported Miss America, 2008.
Two performers stand in a room covered in peeling white paint. On the left, only the black pant legs and arms of one person are seen as they stand close to the camera. On the right, there is a person wearing a thick fur coat and black stilettos and leaning against an opening in the wall behind them. The floor appears slightly wet and some weeds and dirt cover it.
Performance still from FCPA-supported Miss America, 2008.
Peggy Shaw wears a black suit jacket, a black tie, a white and black patterned shirt and a plastic tiara. She stands in front of a black background and is lit only from the left side. Pink shadows cover the right side of her body. She has a concerned and preoccupied expression on her face.
Performance still from FCPA-supported Miss America, 2008.
Peggy Shaw is in front of a black background, wearing a black suit, a black tie, and a black and white patterned shirt. Another person, with a black bob haircu places a plastic tiara on Peggy Shaw's head. This person is mostly hidden in shadows and appears focused while Peggy Shaw is bathed in warm light and has a proud and content expression.
Performance still from FCPA-supported Miss America, 2008.
Two people are in front of a dusty rose colored background and laying on a similar colored silk. One person with short copper hair lays on their front on the rose silk and wears a low cut, strapless black top, and diamond earrings. They look back and up at the other person who lays on top of their back and wears a pastel green jacket with feathers around the neckline, pink earrings, red lipstick, and has their blonde hair pulled into an updo hairstyle.
Performance still from FCPA-supported Miss America, 2008.