Penny Arcade

Legendary avant-garde performer Penny Arcade will be over from New York City this summer to perform her long-running show Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! right here in Hackney, at the Arcola Tent. To celebrate, we’ll be hosting an extra special launch party at Dalston Superstore on Wednesday 20th June with the lady herself performing a few numbers and the fabulous A Man To Pet on hand for tranny antics. 

Not only did Penny graciously answer all our burning questions about the show and her life, but she’s also donated a pair of tickets to the show for us to give away. Just email us at hello@dalstonsuperstore.com and answer the following question to be with a chance to win:

Which famous English singer has performed in Penny Arcade’s show Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!

a. Anita Dobson
b. Marianne Faithfull
c.  Lulu

Entries must be received by 9am Monday 18th June to be entered. The winner will be contacted via email. For a hint to the answer just read our interview with Penny below…

When and why did you set up Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! over in New York?

B!D!F!W! was my queer backlash to the politically correct NY art scene in 1990 during the National Endowment for The Arts Censorship Crisis… B!D!F!W! kicked off the pro sex feminist backlash. It was a critique of the Christian Right as well as a fuck you to the politically correct, “gay community” and art scene in NY that sucked up for approval to the funding institutions run by the middle classes.

Tell us a bit about some of the special guests you’ve had over the years…

The singer Jeff Buckley was a dear friend and I met him when he came to see B!D!F!W! the first time. He was brought by his then girlfriend Rebecca who had worked as an actress in my show before B!D! She was worried about his homophobia and left him with me in my dressing room before the show. Jeff went on to see B!D!F!W! over 30 times, he would stop by a few times a month when it ran for a year He named B!D!F!W! as one of the 10 most influential things on him and his work in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1995.

Quentin Crisp was a special guest in the show… I put him in the audience with a microphone and he spoke during the section of the show that takes place  in the dark.

The video of Marianne Faithful is amazing. How did you hook up with her?

Marianne Faithfull came to see the show twice and then came back stage and said “I am Marianne Faithfull” to which I said, looking at her, “And so you are” and she said “I want to ask you something.” And I replied, “Please do” and she said “This show is about my life. I want to sing in your show.” And I said “That is impossible.” And Marianne was stunned so I said, “I am only joking! Who would say no to Marianne Faithfull?” and I gave her the three most powerful points in the show  and she was of course amazing!

B! D! F! W! by Penny Arcade with Marianne Faithfull from Dalston Superstore on Vimeo.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

Everytime someone comes up to me and says “I saw B!D!F!W!  I laughed, I cried, and it made a profound impact on my life.” This happens often… and it is new each time. I am very proud of the fact that B!D!F!W! had a big impact on Simon Casson, who invented Duckie, and Robert Pacitti, both of whom saw it when they were very young.

Why do you like working with your producer Jeremy Goldstein?

Jeremy is very open-minded and he is a very hard worker. I think he was looking for a project like B!D!F!W! which carries values he shares and without compromising those values an iota is a show without boundaries, that could play in the West End or In Dalston… that cannot be said of very many shows.

Why did you decide to host your show at the Arcola Tent in Dalston?

Arcola has a reputation for presenting quality work and also shares my values of community building and diversity. Dalston is very much like my own neighborhood The Lower East Side in NY, the center for radical, anarchist , labour, queer movements over the past 100 years and which has been beset by gentrification… as Shoreditch etc has been, and Dalston is poised for. We were about to work in the West End, I love Soho for what it once was before gentrification, what it represented and what can’t actually totally be snuffed out there… Dalston beckoned and we accepted.

Describe the Drag Factor for us in one sentence…

The Drag Factor is the phenomena of people from all walks of life dragging their friends and families to see my work.

Can you explain a bit about your involvement in the Gay Shame Movement?

I have always been an outsider and I have always been a radically queer person which calls for a certain amount of belligerence in order to survive in this self replicating status quo environment we call life. Some people can hide what they are and some of us can’t. The clandestine, undiscovered gay world I inhabited as a teenager was my sanctuary and literally saved my life and sanity. The so-called Gay community movement was not a radical movement at ANY point. It always shunned outsiders, drag queens, transsexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals and people who do not identify by their sexual proclivities… You know some people can be heterosexual WITHOUT being hetro-normatitive!!! Control Freaks came out of the closet and formed committees telling the rest of us who were never in the closet what we could say and do. I do not like being told what to think, what to say and I resent having to fit into someone else’s idea of what it is to be human or to be forced to speak my ideas in an academically or group sanctioned way. During a Gay Pride weekend in 1986 with my friend Bobby Beers, we decided to boycott Gay Pride and called for a return to Gay Shame, which was when we had both been happiest. I started to call for this return in my shows. Particularly in B!D!F!W! in 1990 and eventually the idea went viral and apparently is now a movement. Everything starts somewhere, with someone, and someone, somewhere is always cut out, left out and considered queer.

What makes NY such fertile ground for the avant-garde?

After World War 2 NY became the center for artistic experimentation as Paris had been after World War 1.

Gentrification has made that kind of art scene largely impossible because during big avant-garde periods life and rent is cheap, very cheap… people can focus largely on experimenting and creating new forms. I was lucky to live that way for 30 years. The real-estate rents are too high for small performance spaces and the professionalization of the arts, along with the consumer attitude in the way art is now taught has created a gentrification of ideas!

Now these processes are happening in the cracks, everywhere in the world.

What can we expect from your launch party at Dalston Superstore?

You can expect an East Village style queer rave were everyone is welcome.

No gay identity cards required at the door. Special guests that I am choosing and I shall perform some madness or other yet to be disclosed and all my truly Fabulous London dancers will be there… and we shall have a NIGHT ON THE WRONG SIDE OF TOWN!!!!

You can see Penny Arcade at Dalston Superstore on Wednesday 20th June for the launch party and performing at the Arcola Theatre Tent in Dalston from June 27 – July 22 2012.

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