(fl. 1980- )
The Split Britches company ( Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, and Deborah Margolin) began in 1980 with a play by that name. Original members Weaver and Shaw founded the WOW (Women's One World) Cafe in 1982, and Split Britches has originated most of their work from this theatre. Weaver began her feminist theatre work with Spiderwoman and stayed with that collective for over seven years. While she was on a European tour, she met Peggy Shaw who was touring with a gay cabaret, Hot Peaches. Shaw was invited to help Spiderwoman, and when Lois Weaver began work on a play based on her three aunts in the Blue Ridge Mountains entitled Split Britches, the break from Spiderwoman occurred. Deborah Margolin was invited to script the play in 1981 and later joined as a performer when someone else dropped out. Thus began an enduring historic collaboration in feminist theatre that has provided inspiration for a distinguished group of feminist theatre theoreticians and scholars as well as actors, writers, and directors. In an introduction to her anthology of their work, Sue-Ellen Case summarizes, "They have lived their lives and their relationship on the stage, improvising it into episodes and schtick for almost twenty years. They are the lesbian actors of their time" ( Case, 34).
The background of each individual informs the themes and preoccupations of their group work: Margolin as a heterosexual Jewish woman; Shaw as a working-class "butch" lesbian mother; and Weaver as a Southern, working-class "femme" lesbian. Each makes a unique contribution: Shaw in design and visual detail, Margolin as a writer, and Weaver as a director and acting coach. In an interview, Weaver disclaimed a theoretical or political basis for their work: "We talked about our own experiences most all the time. We rarely ever talked about technique or theory or certainly politics."