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A runaway at thirteen, a reform-school graduate at sixteen, a performer in the legendary New York City Play-House of the Ridiculous at seventeen, and an escapee from Andy Warhol’s Factory scene at nineteen, Penny Arcade emerged in the 1980s as a primal force on the New York art scene and an originator of what came to be called performance art. Arcade’s brand of high camp and street-smart, punk-rock cabaret showmanship has been winning over international audiences ever since.
Penny Arcade is the author of ten full length performance pieces including the mainstream hit Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore! Her work been presented in venues as celebrated as the Sydney Opera House and as sordid as New York’s Pyramid Club.
With long-time collaborator Steve Zehentner, Arcade is the co-producer of The Lower East Side Biography Project, a video oral history project. Her first book, Bad Reputation, was published by Semiotexte/MIT, and she was portrayed by Sex in the City actress Cynthia Nixon in the film, Englishman in New York, the biopic about her friend Quentin Crisp. pennyarcade.tv
"If there is an underlying thematic in all of Arcade’s work, it is perhaps this concern to advocate the full expression of our “life force”—creative, sexual, physically and verbally expressive—and to speak out against those societal and political forces that would repress such energizing self-realization." – Stephen Bottoms, University of Leeds, U.K.
The Penny Arcade Biography is a part of The Lower East Side Biography Project and was directed and edited by Patti Van Dyke and Jody Wetzel in collaboration with Steve Zehentner.
The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive. The LES Bio Project’s biographies and archive will help to ensure that future generations have access to the mad souls of invention and rebellion that built the Lower East Side’s international reputation as an incubator for authenticity and iconoclasm in art, culture and politics.
The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed forty 28-minute biographies, videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.
The project’s biographies cablecast in New York City every Wednesday at 11pm EST on Time Warner Channel 34, RCN 82, FIOS 33, and stream live on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Channel One mnn.org/live/1-community-channel
See the project's Facebook page for a current schedule facebook.com/LowerEastSideBiographyProject
Director/Editor: Patti Van Dyke, Jody Wetzel
Producer, Interviewer, Director of Photography: Steve Zehentner
Associate Producers: Dean Lance, Rick Jungers
Lights & Sound: Patti Van Dyke, Jody Wetzel, Steve Zehentner
Women in Revolt: Directed by Paul Morrissey
Performance Camera: Dean Lance, Heiko Kalmbach, Jill Cowburn, Mark Robison, Lori E. Seid
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