Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Revolution revisited: WOW pioneers celebrate now

Left: Carmelita Tropicana
Right: Claire Olivia Moed (at left) and Peggy Shaw
(photos: Eva Yaa Asantewaa)

Moments after the thought crossed my mind, Lois Weaver spoke it: "This is like the high school reunion I always dreamed of!" Then she held up a book to show to the merry, over-spilling crowd of, mainly, lesbians of a certain age (like mine) last night at Dixon Place. Co-edited by Holly HughesCarmelita Tropicana and Jill Dolan and published by University of Michigan Press, Memories of The Revolution: Celebrating the first ten years of the WOW Café  features "scripts, interviews, photos, and critical commentary documenting the riotous beginnings of this long-lived experimental theater space for women" founded in 1981.

Last night's gathering was pretty riotous, too, with many shrieks of recognition, hugs, laughter and gratitude for the way WOW nurtured community and encouraged DIY spirit and free expression. This funky, spunky theater space launched some notable careers including performance artist Hughes, poet Eileen Myles and Tony-winner Lisa Kron (Fun Home's book and score). "Coming to WOW," Kron said, "changed everything about my life."

Running close to three hours, the show featured numerous WOW favorites, such as the Split Britches team of Weaver, Peggy Shaw and Deb Margolin (performing their goofy West Side Story/Yiddish theater mashup) and the Five Lesbian Brothers (Moe Angelos, Babs Davy, Dom Dibbell, Peg Healey and Kron), reigniting crushes that we had on all these charming and inspiring performers back in the day. One of the strongest moments, though, was a serene one--Sharon Jane Smith, quietly singing and playing her mandolin, drawing her audience closer and closer.

It's heartening to know that, despite the challenge of surviving in a changing New York, WOW Café still carries on (click here). But it's a little sad to have to give this particular event and its audience a hashtag: #WOWSOWHITE. For the most part, it appeared that younger women and people of color found other things to do last night. Maybe that had something to do with the demographics of the cohort celebrated in Memories and reflected in last night's lineup. Or maybe it was the ticket price (which, to be fair, included a copy of the book).


Don't miss the next Memories of The Revolution event--"Memories of The Revolution: Locating Lesbian Culture in the Age of Queer"--a panel discussion tomorrow, March 2, at 6:30pm at New York University's Bobst Library.
The panel, composed of WOW alumnae in dialogue led by theater historian and critic Alisa Solomon and performance studies scholar Ann Pellegrini, will address the impact of feminist and lesbian voices on the downtown New York culture of the 80s and 90s, and discuss the legacy of WOW for current generations. Karen Finley will introduce the event, and Jessica DelVecchio will open it by performing songs from the period.
Other participants include Alexis De Veaux, Gwendolen Hardwick, Holly Hughes, Lisa Kron, Eileen Myles and Carmelita Tropicana.

with your name and title/date of the event.

Bobst Library
New York University
70 Washington Square South (at LaGuardia Place), Manhattan


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