Penny Arcade Returns To Performance Space New York
Legendary Downtown New York artist Penny Arcade is now 50 years into a career in which she continues to turn a mirror back on society with highly original and entertaining investigations into the human condition that perhaps best described as cultural criticism you can dance to. She revives her international hit Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!: The Penny Arcade Sex and Censorship Show, May 11-19 at Performance Space New York, as part of the institution's East Village Series. The boldly sex-positive work premiered at Performance Space 122 in 1990, at a time when conservative politicians sought to defund anything that could be deemed offensive, and when the AIDS epidemic cast a long shadow of fear and judgment on sexuality. Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!: The Penny Arcade Sex and Censorship Show, an enduring testament to free speech, returns at a moment where threats of censorship weigh heavily on national discourse.
At Performance Space New York, Arcade will be joined by a star-studded cast of erotic dancers including Blaine Petrovia, 2017 USA National Pole Dancing Champion; Kevin Aviance, four-time #1 Billboard recording artist; and Jantina, aka the Burlesque Booty Queen; among others. These performers are an integral part of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!: The Penny Arcade Sex and Censorship Show. Arcade explains, "Erotic dance is a powerful feminist art form, it is the only thing created by women that controls men, unlike the myriad of things men have created to control women."
Penny Arcade is among the pioneers of downtown performance, and Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!: The Penny Arcade Sex and Censorship Show, co-directed by longtime collaborator Steve Zehentner, is her most celebrated work. The raucous sex-and-censorship show premiered at the height of the censorship crisis, and fought back against the efforts of Jesse Helms and his fellow ultra-conservative politicians, who sought to pressure the National Endowment for the Arts to defund artists who made work that was considered "offensive to the average person." An artist whose politics have infused her work, Arcade sees a need to reassess the subject matter of censorship now-especially the "self-censorship coming from the left in the form of political correctness in today's culture."
Reviewing the premiere of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!: The Penny Arcade Sex and Censorship Show in 1990, The New York Times described the show as "an exuberant two-hour revue with a defiant political agenda." With its international troupe of strippers and erotic dancers, the work spearheaded the neo burlesque performance movement and counts many of today's burlesque stars as alumnae. Arcade has performed the workin over 30 cities, including a year-long Off Broadway run and a 48-performance 20th anniversary revival in London in 2012. London's The Times called it "the smartest, most quotable theatrical party in town" solidifying Arcade's reputation for powerful one-liners. In a five-star review, Time Out London wrote, "[This] signature piece and its exploration of misogyny and repressions in capitalist society remains as challenging, witty and germane today as when it premiered two decades ago-acute, humane, unmissable."
Touring Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!: The Penny Arcade Sex and Censorship Show since 1990, Penny Arcade has brought the spirit of Performance Space, and her unique artistry, to stages around the globe. The New York Times recently wrote, "[A] strain of solo performance art flourished downtown in the 1980s, in the work of artists like Eric Bogosian, Karen Finley and Spalding Gray. On modest stages and with minimal production, they relied on their wits and autobiographical wealth to court, challenge and cajole their audiences into rethinking their deepest personal and political commitments. As many of her peers exchanged the intimacy and experimentation of their early monologue days for more lucrative and visible gigs on cable TV and Broadway and in Hollywood, Penny Arcade stayed faithful to that ethos, serving as mainstay and muse with her blend of high-art seriousness and punk-scented humor."
At 18, Arcade made her debut with John Vaccaro's explosive Playhouse of the Ridiculous before becoming Andy Warhol Factory Superstar, featured in the Warhol/Morrissey film Women in Revolt. She went on to collaborate with such seminal countercultural instigators as Charles Ludlum, Judith Malina and Jack Smith. The late Quentin Crisp described her as his soul mate and the woman with whom he most identified. The New York Times' T Magazine featured her in its recent photo essay "They Made New York," alongside other artists that helped shape New York City's cultural landscape, including Fran Lebowitz, Susan Sarandon, Philip Glass and Chuck Close.
Performance Times, Tickets, and Other Details
Performances of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!: The Penny Arcade Sex and Censorship Show take place May 11 & 12 and 17-19 at 8pm. The evening includes a go-go pre-show with New York's sexiest erotic dancers, beginning at 7:30pm. Doors/Drinks/Dancing at 7:30pm. Critics are welcome as of the first performance. Tickets, $25, can be purchased at performancespacenewyork.org. Performance Space New York is located at 150 1st Avenue 4th floor, New York, NY 10009.
About Performance Space New York
Founded as Performance Space 122, in 1980, from an explosion of radical self-expression amidst the intensifying American culture wars, Performance Space New York is the birthplace of contemporary performance as it is known today. The early acts that defined the organization's unique role in New York cultural history asserted themselves as living, fleeting, and crucially affordable alternatives to mainstream art and culture of the 1980s and early 90s. Emboldened by the inclusive haven of a tight knit group of artists, performers like Penny Arcade, Ron Athey, Ethyl Eichelberger, Karen Finley, Spalding Gray, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Holly Hughes, John Kelly, John Leguizamo, Tim Miller, and Carmelita Tropicana, among many others, engaged in radical experimentation and created hybrid works that existed somewhere between dance, theater, poetry, ritual, film, technology and music.
With the renovation and reimagining of its original abandoned public-school building in the East Village completed, Performance Space New York is entering a new, bracing chapter. Under the leadership of recently appointed Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka, and with state-of-the-art, column-free, high-ceilinged performance spaces, the organization is poised to make a case for the cultural vitality and relevance of performance for the 21st century. Schlenzka brings the idea of themed series to Performance Space New York. As part of a larger multidimensional whole, individual works are juxtaposed to evoke further meaning and push audiences to engage with our contemporary world in illuminating ways. The inaugural series (February-June) in the renovated building focuses on the East Village itself, including the institution's iconic history, re-anchoring the organization within its immediate surroundings.
Returning to a rapidly changing neighborhood during a time marked by divisive and oppressive politics, Performance Space New York builds on its own traditions of integration, political involvement and vehement interdisciplinarity, embodied by artists like niv Acosta, Big Dance Theater, Annie Dorsen, Elevator Repair Service, Tim Etchells, Maria Hassabi, Emily Johnson, Young Jean Lee, Taylor Mac, Richard Maxwell, Sarah Michelson, Rabih Mroué, Okwui Okpokwasili, Reggie Watts, and Adrienne Truscott.
Performance Space New York's lasting presence from the pre-gentrification East Village neighborhood fervently aims to create an open environment for artists and audiences, and thus foster community through performance and discourse-to be a countering force to the often-exclusionary nature of urban development.