Peggy Shaw is a ‘MUST’ See

By Alissa Mesibov

On April 5 and 6, internationally acclaimed performance artist Peggy Shaw is coming to the University of Massachusetts to perform her one-woman play, “MUST the inside story.”

This autobiographical piece explores Shaw’s medical experiences, which includes giving birth to a child en route to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, seeing her mother undergo electric shock therapy, living with loss and eventually becoming who she is today: a 65-year-old lesbian grandmother and a driving force behind current lesbian and feminist theater, according to the Five College Performance Studies’ website.

The play is described as “a journey across the landscape of her [Shaw’s] own body,” by the same website. Shaw draws from multiple classics, featuring imagery from “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Hildegarde von Bingen,” and “The Elephant Man.”

Shaw is a co-founder of both the WOW Cafe Theatre and the Split Britches Theatre Company. She has starred in three other solo pieces, all of which focus on the subject of masculinity. Shaw is a three-time Village Voice OBIE Award winner.

This performance is one of four collaborations between Shaw and the Clod Performing Ensemble out of the United Kingdom. The piece is co-written by Shaw and the Clod Ensemble’s co-founder and artistic director, Suzy Willson. “MUST” is part of the Clod Ensemble’s Performing Medicine project.

“MUST” received rave reviews from The London Guardian, Time Out Magazine, the Edinburgh Festival Magazine and The Times of London, which wrote that “MUST” is “truculent and funny, swaggering and sensitive, [Shaw is] extraordinary.”

It is presented as an after-festival event (the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival) and is sponsored by the UMass Arts Council, the UMass English department, the Amherst English department, as well as several other Five College area programs. Shaw is one of two festival performers to visit the Five Colleges this school year, following Cynthia Hopkins’ October performance at Amherst College.

The UMass English and Theater departments reunite in August for their annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival course. This is open to any college student, not just UMass. The students spend approximately two weeks in Scotland for the world’s largest and oldest theater festival. For more information, visit

“MUST the inside story” will play in Bartlett 65 on April 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased by phone at (413) 545-2511 or by visiting the UMass Fine Arts Center box office.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached at [email protected].