What a unique opportunity it would be to witness a professional actor perform newly written and unpolished works. Peggy Shaw, performer, playwright, and educator, allowed her audience to do just that on November 5th 2002 at a USC-sponsored event in the Village Gates Theatre of Los Angeles.
Shaw, originally from Belmont, Mass., moved in 1967 to New York City, where she was a social worker. Her interest in performance was sparked after seeing various "acts" by the comedy group Hot Peaches. After joining them, Peggy wrote and performed her first monologue, with only minutes to prepare. She was left in a room to herself, with not a clue where to begin. So, she started screaming "dyke, dyke," and from there the journey really began, transforming into a performance-based career with experience in several theater groups, including Hot Peaches, and her own co-founded lesbian theater company, Split Britches, both of which still exist. Peggy's most recent activities include a solo tour of her show "Menopausal Gentleman," which follows the life of a "53-year-old grandmother who passes for a 35-year-old guy who likes the ladies." This pieces meshes fact, "creative truth," and humor into a must-see production.
Shaw's performance selection at USC was entitled "Queer Cabaret." It was definitely "queer" from her usual style of performance since it blended a casual workshop setting with a showcase of her work. "Queer Cabaret" began with a comical address to the audience, informing them of the many mistakes she might make on the new material. Shaw then narrated her growing up in Massachusetts and her later stumbling upon the art of performance through acting. This was not rehearsed, rather a dialogue about her life, loaded with humor and grains of serious matter, shedding light on the lack of knowledge and ill-acceptance of queer persons in the late sixties. She continued with scenes from "You're Just Like My Father" and "To My Chagrin" and ended with a question-and-answer session.
"You're Just Like My Father," originally performed at Hampshire College in 1994, is about how Peggy's mother raised her. What stands out most from this piece are her descriptions of the crisp white shirts her father used to wear. She treasured her crisp white shirt, neatly tucked, and freshly starched. She treasured the moments when she could wear her crisp white shirt. In a way this is symbolic of how she treasures her work as a