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
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.
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 Father, Menopausal 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.