BUFFALO GIRLS: RE-MIX
Is a play about mannish women playing with knives. And cameras and slide projectors. And other women.
Trapped in a failing three-ring circus stranded on the plains, three mannish women gamble on fantasies of escape. Absurdist comedy, cabaret and circus collide in a play that attempts to resurrect the dead, save rare beasts from extinction and to question our human ability to deal with freedom should it be delivered to us.
Agnes Deans Cameron, The Kutenai Berdache and Elinor Dunsmuir lived and died in British Columbia between 1800 and 1938. They figure briefly in various historical accounts: descriptions and photos revealing masculine women who either never married or, in the case of the Kutenai Berdache, took a woman as a wife. Gambling and cross-dressing pre-occupied at least two of them and lying, cheating and manipulation cost all three of them their reputations and their relationships to family and community. All caused a stir.
In the tradition of Beckett and set in the specific landscape of the western plains, we find these three mannish women performing as freaks of nature in a seedy circus, doing acts whose entertainment value is questionable at best. In the day, the women perform their circus acts and at night they plot escape. As they prepare to attempt a break-out, they are continually sidetracked by fantasy, alcohol and gambling, by their need to compete with one another and by the ringmaster, who needs the women in order for the circus to survive. When the dissolution of the circus is revealed, the women captives discover they may not be prepared for their desired freedom after all.
Alternately fueled by our ideals and our fear, we are all freaks, bordering on extinction, preferring the comfort of empty spectacle and captivity to the chill of truth. Meanwhile, the circus is failing, the dust bowl encroaching.
I am grateful for the support Buffalo Girls has received through the Canada Council, the B.C. Arts Council, the Playwright's Theatre Centre, (Vancouver) Playwright's Colony Program and through She Said Yes Theatre (St. John's, NFLD) Mail Order Dramaturgy Program.