BALTIMORE, Md.–They're back! And, nearly 30 years later, Joyce J. Scott and Kay Lawal-Muhammad, the generously proportioned originators of the Thunder Thigh Revue, are proving that they've still got it.
The self-proclaimed performing arts "fativists" originally conceived the idea for the Thunder Thigh Revue in 1984 when they decided to flip the script on societal views and the politics of the time and put a positive spin on the idea of a woman having thunder thighs. Both women considered themselves feminists, and both wanted to make a statement using performance art as the canvas.
"We put our cellulite on the line … crushing the ideas that say you have to be young, white, thin, agile and affluent… We raised our chubby fists in the air and said, 'Say it loud. I'm fat and I'm proud,'" said Scott.
First performed in 1985, the show drew rave reviews and established a following that took the pair throughout the U.S. and to Canada, Holland and Scotland.
The Thunder Thigh Revue served as the beginning of Scott's foray into the performing arts. And, her prowess at utilizing song, humor and dance to address political and societal issues, rapidly developed into the perfect companion to her work as a visual artist, much of which addressed the very same issues. As a bead artist, printmaker, weaver, glass artist, sculptor, performance artist, and educator, she is recognized as one of the most versatile and prolific artists in the area. She is the first Black woman from Baltimore to have a major retrospective of her work presented at the Baltimore Museum of Art and, in addition to participating in numerous shows in the U.S. and Europe, has accepted invitations to work with glass artists in Murano, Italy, in recent years.
When the duo launched the Thunder Thigh project, Lawal-Muhammad had already established herself as a performance artist interested in employing performance art as a therapeutic tool. She established a touring theater company in 1987, Actors Against Drugs, to address the issues of substance abuse, and became one of the founding directors of Wombworks Production, Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with young people, families and communities, using theater, therapeutically, to address topical issues. The organization's three touring companies, Nu World Art Ensemble, Nu Generation Art Ensemble and Next Generation World Art Ensemble, work with young people 17 years and older, 13-17 and 5-12, respectively.
Although Scott and Lawal-Muhammad have had their hands full, after receiving a request to resurrect the Thunder Thigh Revue in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Theatre Project, they began developing a production that, according to Scott, "represents the true evolution of the Thunder Thigh."
To start, the audience is treated to an intimate set of progressive jazz pieces, performed by the six-piece band that accompanies Scott and Lawal-Muhammad throughout the show. Directed by the multi-talented actress and comedian, Rain Pryor, the reunion production, Thunder Thigh Revue: For Fat Women Only and the Men Who Have the Guts to Come/Attend or Our Egos are Bigger Than Our Asses, opens with her video-taped welcome, which is somewhat reminiscent of a scene from the Wizard of Oz, followed by a hilarious animation feature that tells the story of the pair as conjoined twins from another planet.
Gone are Scott's trademark head-over-heels cartwheels, but the duo's verbal gymnastics, quick-wit, high-energy banter, thought-provoking monologues and multi-octave vocals take the audience on a ride through societal issues, politics and humor that creates a roller coaster ride of emotional responses that range from laughter to near tears. And, while the show is funny but cogent, raucous but sophisticated, irreverent but respectful, more than anything else, it is real.
Yes, these two women, who are amply endowed both literally and figuratively, still have it.