The Women's One World began as an all women's theater festival founded in 1980 by international performers Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, Pamela Camhe and Jordy Mark. In 1982, the W.O.W. Cafe Theater would find a home year-round on East 11th Street in New York's East Village. Now the longest-continuously-running trans-inclusive women's theater in the world, the WOW Cafe still exists in its most current space on East 4th Street and has held the work of renowned artists and institutions such as Split Britches, Holly Hughes, Susana Cook, Carmelita Tropicana, Deb Margolin, Hanifah Walidah, Rivers of Honey, the Flamboyant Ladies Theater Company, and the Five Lesbian Brothers.
Theater of Desire is a short film anthology that takes a look at the hirstory of the WOW Cafe Theater through the lens of desire and survival. Namely, the longest continuously-running women's and trans-inclusive theater, WOW has for 36 years been home to artists who have achieved Tony Awards, Obie awards and NEA controversies. Its non-hierarchical structure has invited a hostility that has threatened its very existence and simultaneously inspired a distinct aesthetic that connects a membership base spanning race, class and the gender spectrum.
Integrating extensive interviews and archival footage with intimate follow-along moments and text recitation, Theater of Desire is an artful and historical exploration of what ‘theater of desire’ means and how it serves an anti-capitalistic institution in a capitalist society.
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Shelby Zoe Coley is a filmmaker from Washington, DC currenly based in New York working across nonfiction and documentary forms. A protegé of Sundance veteran Madeleine Olnek (The Foxy Merkins, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) and two-time Tribeca Film Festival producer Abou Farman (Vegas: A True Story, Icaros: A Vision), Shelby uses rhythm, portraiture, and the spoken word to explore intersections between queerness, race and creative practices––from documenting renowned lesbian performance troupe Split Britches, to producing a web series whose direct cinematic style endearingly earned it the title of "the hipster's Grey Gardens." Shelby is currently touring her latest short film "Manly Stanley Takes New York" on the festival circuit and producing a documentary project on the anarchic and historically-lesbian WOW Cafe Theater.
Holly Hughes is an internationally acclaimed performance artist whose work has placed her at the center of America’s culture wars. In the early '80s, Hughes became part of the WOW Café, an arts cooperative in the East Village established by an international group of women artists. She has published many books, including Clit Notes: A Sapphic Sampler, O Solo Homo: The New Queer Performance, co-edited with Dr. David Roman; and Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café, co-edited with Carmelita Tropicana and Jill Dolan for the University of Michigan Press. Her work has been widely anthologized and has served as foundational material for performance studies, queer studies and feminist performance studies. Hughes has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.