Intergenerational, Evolving Ammunition: Split Britches’ ‘Unexploded Ordnances’

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What do Stanley Kubrick, elder women, and ammunition from the Civil War all have in common? They serve as the influences for the intriguing, in-progress—and thereby ever-evolving—project, Unexploded Ordnances (UXO). The project was developed by Split Britches, a feminist theater company that’s made its name by embracing the intersection of performance and theatre with an aim to elevate their art form into public engagement. UXO joins Skirball Cultural Center’s innovative Performance Lab series this Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18 in Los Angeles.

UXO alludes to weapons such as shells, grenades, and bullets which did not explode when they were employed—thereby posing a risk for detonation potentially decades after their intended use. It’s a fitting symbol for a show which explores the multifaceted experience of aging and the often-unexplored desires that are exposed as we wrangle with that experience.

Stanley Kubrick's 'Dr. Strangelove:' served as inspiration for 'Unexploded Ordnances
Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’ served as inspiration for ‘Unexploded Ordnances

Inspired specifically by the unexploded ammunition left behind in New York Harbor as remnants of the Civil War, UXO is also informed by interviews with elder women, as well as Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Just as Kubrick took a farcical approach to depicting a grave topic—nuclear weapons—Split Britches’ performances are often steeped in satire. It’s a refreshing take on topics that aren’t always easy to discuss. Instead, they’re given life through an experimental method—one that is no longer “theater,” per se, but appropriates theatrical conventions. Co-founded by legendary performers Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw, Split Britches’ shows are a captivating fusion of both solo and site-specific performance, one that explores complex ideas, asks you to question your convictions, and challenges racial and societal norms.

It’s a powerful modus operandi—one which institutions such as Skirball Cultural Center are taking upon themselves to incubate and embrace. As a pervasive onslaught of news and fraught opinions threatens daily to drag individuals into a domain of black-and-white, the role of the cultural institution in navigating the human experience with nuance is now more important than ever.

Peggy Shaw of Split Britches
Peggy Shaw of Split Britches

Split Britches will be performing Unexploded Ordnances at Skirball Cultural Center on Friday, February 17, 8pm, and Saturday, February 18, 8pm. More information and tickets are available here.

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