'WHAT TAMMY NEEDS TO KNOW' to Play LaMaMa, 11/6-23
Lois Weaver is co-founder (with Peggy Shaw and Deb Margolin) of Split Britches, the world's premiere lesbian theater troupe, and is well-known for her dramatis persona, Tammy WhyNot, an aging trailer trash blonde who threw away Nashville stardom for a career as a contemporary performance artist. Tammy returns to La MaMa November 6 to 23 with "What Tammy Needs to Know about Getting Old and Having Sex," a new performance created with elderly women in Zagreb, Croatia and NYC that illuminates the taboo subject of desire, pleasure and intimacy in old people. This show is the project for which she was awarded a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship.Tammy WhyNot is the alter ego Lois Weaver employs in performance works to facilitate easy public discussions on difficult subjects. In this piece, Weaver will examine geriatric desire through songs by Tammy, interviews with sexually active seniors, displays of local elder talent and slide shows of sexy senior divas. The conceit of the play is that Tammy is launching a comeback album with songs related to sex and age. Guest artists from NYC senior centers will dance, perform as backup singers, engage in storytelling and appear in music videos accompanying the songs. There is fun and wisdom as Tammy learns from both her elders and the audience interaction. Also appearing as a guest artist will be Lois Weaver's long-standing collaborator and creative partner, Peggy Shaw. Remarkably little research and even less public discourse exist on the aging woman's experience of sex and intimacy, but aging has been a subject of investigation by Weaver and Shaw in a series of recent Split Britches productions, notably Peggy Shaw's "Ruff" (La MaMa, January 2014), a performance about life and art following her 2011 stroke. "What Tammy Needs to Know about Getting Old and Having Sex" dates back to 2008, when it was commissioned for London's Chelsea Theatre. Weaver conducted preliminary research and performance-based workshops in the UK with the Association of Greater London Older Women (AGLOW) and a UK-based sexual health consultant, Dr. Ali Mears, culminating in a performance lecture that was a first step toward evolving the dramatic form of this show. Weaver returned to the subject last year when, in the character of Tammy, she lived in a retirement home in Zagreb, Croatia. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to build on that research and more recently, she has conducted workshops in four NYC senior centers -- Sirovich Center, Stein Senior Center, The Caring Community and SAGE -- to generate local stories and recruit participants for this show. The process began, on both continents, with porch sitting -- relaxing with seniors and talking about how we feel about sex as we get older. Tammy conducted 'Find Your Inner Diva' workshops, culminating in 'Do I Look Sexy In This?' portraits. She scouted for local performers between 65 and 95 who would come onstage with her, to 'bring their sexy back' and to address such questions such as: What is it like to get old? What is it like to have sex? What is it like to get old and have sex? Videos of the Croatian workshop are available at http://vimeo.com/77787827 and http://vimeo.com/90984759. Reviewing the London production in 2008, Fringe Review wrote, "Lois Weaver's delightful character Tammy WhyNot is a frothy blonde Southern Belle [...] She regales the audience with songs that would make most of Texas blush [...] It is hard to unpick the Lois from the Tammy [...] her winning charm and frank honesty quickly won me over, and by the end I was entirely in love. [...] Without seeing her in action, it would seem unlikely that such an unusual and outwardly stereotypical character can woo people into disclosing and discovering things about themselves that they had locked away, yet twenty minutes into the performance, I would happily have told her anything about myself that she wanted to know." Lois Weaver is an independent performance artist and activist and Professor of Contemporary Performance Practice, Department of Drama, Queen Mary, University of London. She was co founder of WOW Theatre in New York and has been a collaborator with the Split Britches Company since 1980. She was Director of PSi12: Performing Rights, an international conference and festival on performance and human rights in 2006 and is currently Artistic Director for Air Project, an initiative that nurtures and sustains Live Art practitioners in the UK. Her practice based research uses performance to initiate conversations on human rights in women's prisons with the project Staging Human Rights; technology design with Democratising Technology; and the role of democracy in public engagement with The Long Table. Current performance as public engagement projects can be found on her website: www.publicaddresssystems.org. Tammy WhyNot has accompanied Weaver since 1978 as her alter-ego, performance partner and research associate. The character was conceived in "The Lysistrata Numbah," created and performed by Spiderwoman Theatre in 1978, and born again in a caravan under the Brooklyn Bridge in a show called "Upwardly Mobile Home," written and performed by the Split Britches Theatre Company in 1984. 'Tammy' got her start in show business in the late eighties as a solo artist on the New York downtown performance scene appearing at WOW, PS122, The Club at La MaMa and the Limbo Lounge. Following that, she has mostly appeared in the UK and around the world. She made her first international appearance as mistress of ceremonies for Club Girrls at the ICA in 1994. After that she toured the UK with cLUB bENT, presented in association with It's Queer Up North and Gay Sweatshop. Her London appearances include, Saturday nights at Duckies, Club Deviance at the Almeida Theatre, "Tammy WhyNot's X-rated Xmas Xtravaganza" at the Oval House and "Tammy's Art and Beauty Salon and East End Collaborations" at Queen Mary, University of London. She has also performed in Helsinki, Warsaw, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles. Tammy's last NY appearance was four nights with "What Tammy Needs to Know ..." ( a more general inquiry) at Dixon Place in 2004. Coinciding with this show, La MaMa will present "Coffeehouse #121 - Split Britches" on November 8 at 3:00 PM in its First Floor Theater, 74A East Fourth Street. The program will be a reflection on the La MaMa work of Split Britches, moderated by Alisa Solomon. Panelists will include Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver, Jill Dolan, Moe Angeles. Performers will include Ariel "Speedwagon" Federow and Katie Goldstein. Coffeehouse Chronicles is a free, interactive, educational series exploring the history and development of Off-Off Broadway from its inception within the Village "Coffeehouse Theatres" of the 1960's through today. The series is curated by Michal Gamily. Admission is free and reservations are not required. "What Tammy Needs to Know about Getting Old and Having Sex" is conceived, directed and performed by Lois Weaver and written by Weaver in collaboration with Peggy Shaw. Choreography is by Stormy Brandenberger. Sound Design is by Vivian Stoll. Music Composition is by Vivan Stoll, Amy Surrant, Louise Mothersole, Paul Clark and Sharon Jane Smith. Set design is by Jo Palmer. Lighting design is by Lori E. Seid. Costume design is by Susan Young.