Saturday, May 14, 2016

Between the Lines: Memories of the Revolution

by Zinta Aistars

for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Holly Hughes

Women who performed at the WOW Café Theater on New York City's Lower East Side sometimes called themselves the "Uncooperative Cooperative." Holly Hughes was one of those women. She's said more than once that WOW saved her life.

WOW, or Women’s One World, is a feminist theater space that started in the early 1980's. It was, and still is, a place where many gay women like Hughes found both themselves and their art. WOW became the safe place where they could be who they are without judgment or persecution. At WOW, women who had long felt themselves to be on the margins of society could express themselves as rebels while developing lasting bonds of friendship and support. Their "uncooperative" selves found cooperation in each other.
Hughes is a contributing editor to Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café Theater (co-edited by Carmelita Tropicana and Jill Dolan). The book, published by the University of Michigan Press in 2015, is a collection of memories, play scripts, and photographs of WOW’s first decade.
“I was in New York for a couple of years before I found my way to the WOW Café,” says Hughes. “I saw a poster for a double X-rated Christmas party for women. I thought, 'wow, this looks fun and weird in a good way.' I went to the party and kind of never left.”
What Hughes found was a group of women creating outrageous work for the stage.
“WOW was so warm and welcoming,” she says. “It was my sorority. They were breaking the rules. I was looking for that kind of sense of community. Particularly a feminist sort of community.”
WOW was different than other theater groups in that no play was censored and no auditions were required. Any play got to the stage. Whatever members wrote was performed, no questions asked.
“The idea that was implicit in this was that people get better by doing the work,” Hughes says.
Hughes found that having that kind of acceptance fostered a daring creativity. While she had expected to work back stage, the Café was too small — “I think maybe it was 12 feet across,” Hughes says — to have a back stage. Instead, she found herself performing and writing plays of her own. She found that she liked it.
“When I say now that WOW saved my life — I ...

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